Indis sighed audibly, drawing the attention of those in the room. She looked up and announced in a low voice, “Arafinwë, Findis, I shall leave Tirion tomorrow, but not to return to Taniquetil. I intend to seek out Nienna in her halls in the Far West. It is past time that I resolve the terrible knot that was always at the core of my relationship with your father.”
Indis looked at the concerned, surprised faces of her children and grandchildren. Arafinwë and Findaráto wore nearly identical expressions of worry, while Findis and Galadriel were more inscrutable, but watched her keenly. Eärwen observed her quite calmly, as if she already knew Indis’s plan, and approved. Amarië’s eyes traveled between Indis and Findaráto – of those gathered, she knew the least about the strife that had long hovered over the House of Finwë.
Galadriel’s return, and being once more in the palace at Tirion, seemed to open the floodgates for pain long held in check. Indis had kept silent for three ages, and what had it yielded? Nothing but silent sorrow and doubt. Enough! She drew a deep breath. “My lord Finwë and I loved each other, in truth. Know that first and foremost, and never doubt that our children were all the products of love and joy.”
Now all of the faces in the room showed wary apprehension about what she would say next. Indis closed her eyes briefly, and then continued.
“The early years of our family life were mostly happy ones for me, and also I believe for Finwë. Save for the discontent of his first-born.” Indis opened her eyes, her mouth twisted in a bitter smile. “But, as you know, Fëanáro’s jealousy over his father’s love and his position within the family worsened over the years, despite all that Finwë and I did to reassure him. Ever he shunned me, and he would sometimes shut out Finwë too. I could never comprehend why Fëanáro had such hatred for me in his heart, why he blamed me for the fact that Míriel would not return to life, when it had been her choice, much contested by Finwë himself and even some of the Valar, to remain within Námo’s halls.
“You all know all of this well, though I have never spoken openly with any of you, save Findis, about the strife that churned between Fëanáro and me. In time I came to view him with suspicion and even animosity, especially when I saw how he hated my own, innocent sons. Before the terrible events that led to Fëanáro’s banishment, I spoke with my lord husband on three separate occasions about his eldest son’s irrational anger and resentment. If any deserved Fëanáro’s wrath, it was Míriel herself, not me or Nolofin!” Indis shook her head, her mouth a hard line of anger and disappointment.
Galadriel spoke in a low voice, “Grandmother, I am not surprised that you appreciated how dangerous Fëanáro had become. I could never understand why the family tolerated his temper, his selfishness and jealousy. He claimed the biggest portion of Grandfather’s love, and the premier position within his family and among his people, but even then Fëanáro was not satisfied. He did not care that others existed, in fact he actively sought to disregard my father and Uncle Nolofin.”
Indis bowed her head for a moment. Before she could answer, Findis spoke from the corner, “Galadriel, I can see why it would appear that way to you. But it was never that simple.”
Indis nodded and continued, “So much of what happened can be laid at Melkor’s feet, but not all of it. By the time you were born, my dear, it was perhaps too late, even if Melkor had not exploited the weaknesses in our family. But it would be a mistake to lay all of the blame on Fëanáro.”
Galadriel arched an eyebrow questioningly at her grandmother, and waited for Indis to elaborate.
Indis sighed, “I’d believed that if Finwë had talked to his son about Míriel’s choice to stay away, Fëanáro might not have harbored such malice in his heart, and he would not have been so ripe for Melkor’s lies. But Finwë always defended his eldest from the least criticism, and it hurt me to see that in his heart Fëanáro would ever come first….”
Arafinwë interjected, “Mother, we were all dismayed and outraged by Father’s decision to follow Fëanáro into exile. … It felt like he was repudiating all of us.”
Indis nodded in agreement. “Yes, yes it did. After Fëanáro had threatened Nolofin, I accused Finwë of being a weak parent, unable to provide the necessary guidance for his hot-headed son – I had never spoken to him in such a way, and never spoken so strongly against Fëanáro! I thought it was long past time to stop coddling Finwë’s motherless son. But I then discovered that I didn’t know the truth of the matter.”
“What truth?” Findaráto burst out, while Amarië clutched his knee in apprehension. Eärwen put down her comb and looped her arms gently around her daughter’s neck. Galadriel’s face was unreadable. Arafinwë crossed the room to sit next to Findis, and brother and sister both watched their mother with anxious eyes.
Indis paused, gathering her thoughts, and then sighed. She spoke slowly, as if each word weighed heavily on her tongue. “The truth? Until that day, the truth I had known was that Míriel’s choice defied all logic and explanation.
Indis sighed again. “I’d known Míriel only a little when she was alive. She and I were very different and although we had no dislike for each other, we had little in common. … Except that I’d long loved her husband from afar. I’d always kept that to myself, and had never begrudged Míriel her happiness with Finwë, for indeed to look at them one could not doubt that they were deeply in love, and complemented each other’s strengths. Míriel was much quieter than Finwë, more difficult to gauge, less eager to be seen. And yet when they walked into a room together he seemed to draw some of his wonderful energy and confidence from her. His eyes always sought hers out. No one would ever have questioned their bond; I certainly did not.
“When Míriel passed out of life, I was shocked, and dismayed for Finwë. And, try as I did –and I truly did try – I could not understand her. I could not imagine abandoning life, let alone a husband such as Finwë, and a child such as Fëanáro. As difficult as this might be to for some of you to believe, Fëanáro was a very charming, delightful child. As willful then as he was as an adult, but his enthusiasm, intelligence, and grace were almost breathtaking, and the darkness that seemed always to taint his view of the world had not yet arrived. Yet, she just walked away from them both!”
Findis’s shoulders were slumped, her head bowed. Arafin drew his arm around his sister and pressed her head against his shoulder. Eärwen watched her husband and his sister sadly; her children were startled by their aunt’s obvious grief.
Indis continued at a solemn pace, her eyes on her children, her voice low and steady. “Finwë and I rarely spoke of Míriel, and after we wed I spoke her name to him only one time. Yet her presence was everywhere in this palace. In the first years of our marriage, when Fëanáro still dwelled with us, I tried to keep Finwë’s home – our home – as Míriel had left it. Her handiwork was everywhere, and as I knew I could not hope to match it, I felt it best to leave her tapestries and other household items in place. I thought it would comfort Fëanáro.
“After you were born, Findis, I thought for a brief time that Fëanáro was more reconciled to my marriage to his father, for he truly seemed to like you. I know that you never had the difficult relationship with Fëanáro that your brothers had, and Lalwen also, for that matter. Although I believe that she elected to have strife with Fëanáro out of love and loyalty to Nolofin. I cannot blame her for it, for Fëanáro was never kind to my oldest son,” Indis sighed, her eyes shadowed with old grief.
Eärwen spoke, “the bond between Nolofinwë and Lalwendë was very strong. Anairë has said that she sometimes felt like an intruder when her husband was with his sister.”
Arafinwë agreed, “yes, the two of them were quite a pair, and were a united front against Fëanáro.”
Findaráto commented, “but surely Uncle Nolofin and Aunt Lalwen wouldn’t have had to unite against Uncle Fëanáro if he had not been hostile to them in the first place!”
“There were only three years between your uncle and aunt, and I think they would have been close even if Fëanáro had not been hostile to Nolofin,” Arafinwë responded.
“And while Fëanáro was sixeen years older than Nolofinwë, and was certainly the originator of the hostility between the two of them, certain events made it almost inevitable that he would despise Nolofin and begrudge him a place in the family,” Findis added softly, her eyes on Indis. “Why don’t we let Mother continue, as I believe she will answer many of our questions?”
Indis nodded, and, after a brief pause, resumed her account, “Fëanáro left to work with Mahtan soon after Nolofinwë was born, and he never lived with us again. Findis is right, there were mistakes that I made, and that Finwë made, which hardened Fëanáro’s heart all the more against me.”
Indis smiled ruefully, “For example, I thought that, since Fëanáro no longer lived in our home, I might put Míriel’s things away, and would thereby, I’d hoped, diminish my sense that she had never left the house. My efforts were in vain in that regard, and in fact the only result was that Fëanáro’s animosity was fanned higher upon his next visit, when he noticed that I had replaced his mother’s tapestries with others. He went out of his way to focus conversations on the peerless quality of Míriel’s work whenever I was in the room.
“But even when Fëanáro was not there, even when Finwë and I were alone in our bedchamber, which was not the same room he had shared with Míriel, I felt she was there – in the corner of his mind, in the corners of his heart. At times she might as well have been in the corner of the room,” Indis shook her head, her eyes distant. Amarië’s eyes darted around the room, as if expecting to find Míriel Serindë peering at her from a dark corner.
Indis shrugged, “in the early years of our marriage, Finwë and I knew great happiness. The births of each of our children brought us joy, and we were pleased to be partners in guiding and teaching our sons and daughters. If I never could rid myself of sensing Míriel on the periphery of my marriage and home, it would not be correct to say that she dampened my happiness. I just could not forget her.
“As my children grew, so did Fëanáro’s hostility. And I asked Finwë, in vain, to correct his eldest son’s misunderstanding about who was responsible for Míriel’s unfathomable, deplorable choice. Although I disliked Fëanáro by the time my children were grown, I still pitied him for the loss of his mother, and I thought it was a shame that he should continue to mourn her so strongly when her absence was entirely her decision. But not only did he continue to mourn Míriel, he was determined to make his half-brothers and sisters suffer too. Not to mention his father. And, of course, me.”
“How old was Fëanáro when Míriel passed into the Halls of Mandos?” Amarië asked.
“Three,” Arafinwë, Findis and Indis responded together. The tension in the room abated slightly, as everyone smiled a bit at the coincidence, and Findis lifted her head from her brother’s shoulder.
“The particulars of my uncle’s tragic childhood are well ingrained in all of us,” Findaráto wryly explained to his wife.
Indis’s smile faded, “Indeed. Finwë was always quick to excuse his eldest’s behavior by reciting how young Fëanáro had been when Míriel left.” She sighed again, before continuing, “But it was a thin excuse once Fëanáro had actually threatened Nolofinwë's life. I confronted Finwë about it as he was departing for exile with Fëanáro.”
Indis looked at her children and grandchildren. “What Finwë then revealed only increased my anger and despair. He explained to me that when Míriel’s fea had been summoned before the Valar to address his petition to wed me, he had communed with her briefly, and found that it was likely that she would have eventually returned to life. I never learned the reason for her departure, but Finwë made it clear that her decision to remain in Námo’s hall was the result of her discernment of his wish to wed me.”
Indis closed her eyes as she continued. “He swore to me that he’d been sure of himself and of the rightness of his decision, until Manwë summoned Míriel’s spirit.” Indis’s voice broke, much as Finwë’s had in the original telling.
“Mother!” Findis gasped, and leapt up from the bench. She rushed across the room to embrace Indis. Arafinwë rose also and crossed the room more slowly, to stand protectively behind his mother and sister. His wife and children looked on with shock and sorrow.
After a long moment enveloped in her daughter’s arms, Indis lifted her head and wiped more tears from her face. She cupped Findis’s face in her right hand, and wiped tears from her daughter’s cheeks with the other. “I must finish this, my dear. I’ve kept it to myself for too long. I hope that you can bear to listen.”
Findis nodded mutely, and sat at her mother’s feet, resting her head in Indis’s lap. Arafinwë placed a steadying hand on his mother’s shoulder. Indis stroked her daughter’s hair as she drew breath to continue.
“Finwë explained to me that he had already pled his case to Manwë before Míriel was summoned. After their brief, secret exchange, the Valar addressed questions to Míriel. Manwë himself could not fathom her stubbornness, and though he questioned her patiently, his frustration was palpable to all gathered. I remember it well. None of the elves present could hear the answers she gave him, but from what Manwë said to her, it was clear that Míriel was steadfast that she would not return to life.”
Stunned silence filled the room. The informal narrative that had taken hold in Arafinwë’s family to account for Fëanáro’s irrational hostility and terrible behavior was rendered woefully inadequate. Galadriel and Eärwen both stared blindly at Indis, stunned. Amarië rose to draw Findárato to her in a comforting embrace. Arafinwë and Findis remained beside their mother. Tears streamed silently down Indis’s face.
Arafinwë moved to kneel next to his sister, and took one of his mother’s hands. She wiped the tears from her face with the other, and then pulled her son to her and kissed the top of his head. Findis’s head remained in her mother’s lap.
Arafinwë moved back a few inches to search his mother’s face as he gently wiped the remnants of her tears with the sleeve of his tunic. “Mother, are you all right?”
“Yes. Yes, I am. Though this is painful to share I am relieved to be doing so at last. I am grateful to have you all here to listen to me.” Indis closed her eyes, wiping away a few unshed tears. Arafinwë rose and resumed his former position behind his mother, with a warm hand on each of her shoulders. Indis gathered her wits and continued, in a much steadier voice.
“… When he finished explaining himself, Finwë lowered his head, as if awaiting my judgment. And well he should have, for as I took in his words I felt a chill sweep over me, one that to this day has not fully left me.
“So much was explained. Finwë had made me complicit in forcing Míriel to remain unhoused – for she might eventually have returned to life, had we not sought to wed! In essence Fëanáro had been right, although he didn’t know all of the facts of the matter. I have long wondered what Míriel might have said to him before she departed to Lorien.
“In that moment I saw that so much of what I had believed about my husband and my marriage had been false. The marriage was based on a lie. And my husband had allowed my false beliefs to flourish. He had betrayed me as much as he had betrayed Míriel and Fëanáro.
“I still couldn’t understand what possible reasons Míriel might have had for leaving in the first place, but had I known that she would have returned to life eventually, I would never have wed Finwë, no matter how much I loved him. I do not regret marrying him, not for a moment, because I love our children with all of my heart. But his guilt compromised his love for me, and the secret he kept from me prevented us from knowing each other as fully as we might have.”
Findis lifted her head from her mother’s lap, and gave her mother a searching look. Mother and daughter stared at each other for a long moment, and then Findis rose to kiss her mother’s cheek, before kneeling at her side and taking one of Indis’s hands in her own.
Indis shook her head slowly as she continued, “Looking back, it seemed preposterous that I hadn’t realized that a child as clever and precocious as Fëanáro, young though he was when his mother departed, knew Míriel well enough to know that she would not have chosen to stay away forever. He might not have known the details of how Míriel came to remain in Mandos, but he knew it would not have been her wish to do so. Fëanáro was correct in deducing that my marriage to his father was the key to Míriel’s strange fate.
Findis nodded grimly. Arafinwë’s head was bowed. Galadriel and her brother exchanged looks of amazement. Fëanáro had been right? Their grandfather had been the architect of the family’s troubles, rather than its beleaguered hero? Was this possible?
Galadriel protested, “But Grandmother, Fëanáro was not right to blame you for his mother’s death. His hatred of my father and my uncle – and you – are what caused the problems in our family. Grandfather might not have been as forthcoming as he should have been, but it was Fëanáro who chose to let malice into his heart.”
Indis shook her head, “I do not excuse Fëanáro’s antipathy toward his brothers or me, nor how he let it guide his later actions. But in his weakness Finwë forced us all to live a lie, and I suspect that it was that which was so intolerable to Fëanáro. Ah, who can say for sure? I certainly never had insight into Fëanáro’s heart or mind. … I wonder what Nerdanel could tell us about it… “
Findaráto offered softly, “yes we should not forget that we are not the only ones who have suffered loss because of Uncle Fëanáro’s anger and bitterness. Aunt Nerdanel has lost all of her family.”
“Indeed, Ingoldo. Many have suffered because of Fëanaró’s suspicions and jealousies, and his disregard for others. He alone was responsible for his actions. Nevertheless, the fact is that my husband, Finwë, King of the Noldor, had pursued a path that brought unhappiness and ruin on nearly every member of his family. Perhaps himself most of all. And I was his unwitting accomplice. I told Finwë all of that before he left with Fëanáro. And … I told him that I did not wish to see him again. It was true at the time, although I have since come to regret saying that, especially given what happened later.”
Arafinwë spoke, “Mother, you had no way of knowing about Míriel. You must not blame yourself for that. Father deceived you, just as he kept that truth from Fëanáro and the rest of us.”
“Do you really believe that, Arafinwë? I’m not so sure, and I’ve been dwelling with this thought for a very, very long time. It is to answer that question that I wish to speak with Nienna.”
The room was silent for a long moment after Indis finished speaking. Then Findis rose to her feet, and bent down to kiss her mother’s cheek once more. “I am glad you did not let Father go unchastened for his deception, Mother,” she said in a low voice that shook with emotion. “He lied to us all and if anyone is to blame for Fëanáro’s acts besides Fëanáro himself, I think that it must be Father.”
“Don’t forget Morgoth, Aunt,” Findaráto interjected.
“No. No we cannot forget him, can we?” replied Findis, turning to face her nephew. “But if Father had not created such intolerable circumstances for Fëanáro – and for us, too – Morgoth would have had nothing to exploit in our family. The weakness was already there for him to prey upon.”
“You may be right, Findis,” Arafinwë sighed. “Yet I cannot help but feel that the circumstances Father found himself in when Míriel passed were so extraordinary that none of us can really know what it must have been like for him. To lose his wife, to face raising a small child by himself – and comforting that child, who missed his mother. No one in Aman had ever dealt with such grief and loss before. And on top of that, he was a king, with a duty to his people. His time was not fully his own, he couldn’t afford to attend exclusively to himself or his son.”
“’Tis no small thing to rule over others,” Galadriel said softly. “Until I had done it myself I did not appreciate how taxing it is at times.”
Findis frowned but made no reply, and turned back to Indis. “Are you all right, Mother? Shall I fetch you some wine? Some water, perhaps?”
Indis shook her head. “I think I’ll walk a bit in the gardens. They’re lovely, Eärwen, I have meant to tell you that for some time now. You have a way with plants, the gardens are much better laid than they were when I lived here.”
Eärwen murmured her thanks.
Findaráto stood, “Shall I come with you, Grandmother?”
Indis smiled and held out her hand, “Yes, please do come, Ingoldo. I would like that very much. Amarië, will you join us?”
Amarië shook her head, “No, I think I’ll retire now. Good night, Lady Indis.” Amarië brushed a warm kiss on her husband’s cheek and clasped Indis’s hands between her own before she left the room.
“Good night, my dear. Findis? Will you walk with us?”
“No, Mother, go on with Findaráto – he has a way of lightening even the heaviest heart. But when you leave tomorrow to journey to Nienna’s halls, I would like to go with you.”
“As would I,” said Galadriel, standing. “If you wouldn’t mind the company, Grandmother.”
Indis smiled, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “On the contrary, I would be very glad to have you both along. Thank you, Findis. Thank you, Galadriel. Whatever sorrows I’ve had to bear I am fortunate beyond reckoning to have the children and grandchildren that remain to me.”