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With many thanks to RiverOtter and Surgical Steel for the beta!
The Crafting of the Seeing-stones
“Oh, Fëanáro…” Nerdanel said from the doorway of the forge.
Her husband turned, wondering what had brought her here at this time, so soon after the birth of their twin sons. And he knew well that when she used quite that inflection she did very much desire something of him. “Yes, O flower of my heart?” he responded.
“It is only that I have thought of a challenge for your skill is all, as the father of our children and the master of your forge.”
“And that is?”
She entered the room, moving aside one of his sets of tongs that she not knock it clattering to the floor with an unwatched movement of her hip as she settled it against a worktable. “It has to do with our sons, best beloved,” she finally admitted. “I am finding it increasingly difficult to reach each of them when necessary. As for Ambarussa—I can barely leave the side of their crib without worry that one or the other—or both—will awaken and cry out for me. Between the caring for our home and the commissions I have received for works from my own forge or from my studio I have much to do, and I cannot always easily break away to have to go far and wide in search of this son or that. And I cannot bring Ambarussa to the forge or studio for their nap, as the noise and movement keep them awake and watching. Macalaurë slept through nearly anything as long as the sound had rhythm to it, and give any of the others a bar of mithril on which to teeth and they were happy. But these two….” Her shrug served to arouse him, and he knew he had yet another reason to fulfill her wishes, as when she was pleased she could share such pleasure with him.
“So, what is it that you would wish of me?”
Again she shrugged. “I am not certain, but it should be something for me and for each of the children. Something fairly portable that they each might carry theirs with them when they are abroad, and that I might carry mine easily from the kitchens to the solar to the studio or forge when it is needed. Something with which I might watch over the children when they are away from home, and with which they can contact us when we are needed. Something with which I can watch over the twins as they sleep or play quietly together while I am working elsewhere. Something that I can use to call the older ones home with when it is needful for us to gather as a family. Something with which they might communicate with one another even if they are far apart. After all, Maitimo is now busy in the house of his grandfather, attending upon him as King, and Macalaurë seems ever on the road from Alqualondë to Valmar and back, singing for festivals and weddings and dedications and the like. And with Tyelcormo so often on the hunt with Oromë and that hound of his….” She did not need to go further.
“I will see what I can do,” he promised her, and received a sound kiss in return ere she left him. He was humming as he finished the knife he was currently working on, and humming still as he set an apprentice to sharpening it and reached for his wax tablet and scriber on which to begin the plans for the devices his wife desired of him.
He found Nerdanel in the room where the twins slept, a fussing child on each arm. She looked flustered, as did the elleth who served as the nurse for the infants, not that the twins ever seemed to respond well to anyone other than their parents. She looked up at him distractedly. “Yes, Fëanáro?”
He smiled at her with triumph. “I have completed the challenge you set me!” he explained. “If you will come to the dining room when you are free to do so.” He reached out to take one of the infants into his arms, allowing her to lift the other to nurse.
She gave a tired smile, and murmured soothingly to the child she held. “Softly, softly my little one. Drink and be calm.” She looked back, suggesting, “If you will change that one, I believe he will quiet the quicker. Then, once both are calmer we can go down together.”
The nurse curtseyed with relief and fled to her own chamber, leaving master and mistress in charge of the two terrors of her life, vowing secretly that she would herself never give birth—and certainly not to two at once!
Soon enough they were able to carry their two youngest to the dining room. There upon the table sat seven spheres, each slightly larger than a span in diameter, with two somewhat larger than the rest. They appeared to be of black glass through which wound ribbons of light. Each sphere was set on a circular stand wrought of steel raised upon four lion-clawed feet.
“Here are seven far-seers,” he explained. “There is one for each of the older ones and one for the nursery, and this one--” here he touched the largest, “—can speak to all of the rest at once. When you look into this one you can see everything in the land in which the son carrying the sphere you seek to follow travels, indeed all betwixt you and that son. And when each son looks into his sphere he can see all between where he is and wherever it is that the brother he seeks to find or speak with might be, as well as all betwixt himself and you. When two seek to communicate with one another, they will be able to see each another and speak using osanwë. And when you face one or all of them through the master stone here, you shall be likewise able to use osanwë.”
She was enchanted, and that night was most pleasantly spent by the two of them.
Getting their sons to carry the spheres took persuasion at first, and with Tyelcormo and Atarincë she had to use the coercion of guilt to convince them to do so. As each stone became associated with a particular son, she found that she could watch over them even when they did not carry their own stones with them.
All worked well at first with the sphere for Ambarussa’s room—until the twins realized that they could turn their sphere toward any of their brothers and watch whatever they were doing or interrupt them in the midst of sometimes very delicate situations, and tattle on them at will. At last, to keep the peace, their father set the stone assigned to Ambarussa to focus on Taniquetl. “There,” he muttered. “Let the Valar deal with the two of them spying!” Their mother, however, could easily watch over them and speak to them through the master stone, and at need they could use theirs to speak with hers. As they grew up, however, they found each wished to have his own stone, so their father took theirs for a time to duplicate it. Unfortunately, this new one, too, tended to focus primarily on Taniquetl for the longest time, until with considerable frustrated fiddling their father finally was able to change the primary focus of the two stones to each other. This pleased the two of them mightily, as they each felt the need to know where the other was and what he might be doing at any time. And all was at peace in the house of Fëanor until Melkor was released from Mandos….
“We shan’t need these in Formenos,” groused Atarincë. “I mean, what will be the use? We won’t be traveling abroad from one another, after all. Indeed, I suspect we shall come to loath being forced to be together constantly!”
So it was that during their time of exile the sons of Fëanor and Nerdanel indeed got out of the habit of relying on their stones. Their father became increasingly bitter and convinced that the Valar sought to take his treasures, and in time he locked the eight Palantiri in his treasury with his Silmarilli. And, unfortunately, as his anger and suspicions grew, he became convinced that his wife’s constant admonitions to trust the Valar indicated she honored the Powers more than she did him, and his love for her began to cool.
When he came out of Formenos, Fëanáro refused to return to their home, and there were quarrels and hurt feelings. Nerdanel finally insisted that the stones be given her, but only she used them, it seemed. And on the day that her estranged husband led their sons to swear that cursèd oath and led them to Alqualondë and the bloodbath there, she watched through the master stone and wept in grief and horror, the other seven sitting about her, for not one of her sons, not even the twins or Macalaurë, had agreed to take his stone with him.
And in time first her husband and then each of her sons died, save Macalaurë alone, and all the stones did was to remind her of all she had lost. They were returned to the chest Fëanor had crafted for them when he’d placed them in his treasury, and she hid them away.
At the end of the First Age of the Sun many things were changed. Beleriand was buried beneath the Sea, while across it, within sight of the tower of Avalonnë on Tol Eressëa, a new land was raised as a dwelling place for the most favored of the Second-born. A far more solemn Nerdanel in time began to craft items to be gifted to or traded with those who dwelt in Númenor, and oft when she came across some treasured creation of her husband that brought back the more painful memories of her lost marriage and sons, she would send it there to be rid of it.
One day one of the Elves of Tol Eressëa who had once been in Círdan’s court and had befriended Elros Tar-Minyatur and his people came to her. “Evil grows upon the Star Isle,” he told her. “Those who are faithful to the Valar are sent into exile away from the capital of Armenelos, and when their lords meet with one another they are accused of fomenting revolt. They cannot be seen together much of the time, but have need of a means of communicating with one another and with those of us upon Tol Eressëa willing to succor them. It is said that he who was your husband had crafted stones allowing his sons to speak together and allowing him to watch over them from afar. Is this true? Can you make such things for their use?”
Could she make such things? Even if she could, would she? She tried, but in the end accepted that too oft there is but one proper time for such makings. What was she to do? And then she thought, “But of what use are the original stones to me now? I cannot see my sons there in the Halls of Mandos; nor am I able to see my Macalaurë even with the master stone. They might be of use to the lords among the Faithful on the Star Isle, but I will not betray Fëanáro’s memory by giving them into the hands of those here in Aman whom he saw as enemies.” For, although he was lost to her, yet she found she still loved him and would not look on any other.
And so on the day the Elf from Tol Eressëa came again she brought out the casket and revealed the eight stones to him, explaining the use of the larger master stone, and that these two spoke primarily only with one another. He was pleased and accepted them. His house took one of the paired stones, and the rest were given to the chief lord of the Faithful, who kept the master stone for himself and gave the rest to others of the lords who refused to join the King’s Men. These were kept secret, and on the day that the Faithful and their people went out in their fleet to the east side of the island, three of the stones (including the paired stone) were given into Elendil’s keeping, two were given to Isildur, and two to Anárion. And so it was that Elendil kept a stone each at Annúminas and Amon Sûl, placing the paired stone in one of the three ancient Elf towers that stood looking out over the Sundering Sea. Isildur placed the master stone in Osgiliath, his brother placed one in Orthanc, and they each took his remaining palantir to his own city.
And so the palantiri were settled as Elendil and his sons saw the lands of Arnor and Gondor founded within Middle Earth.
In Aman, Nerdanel kept the empty chest, and within it stored small tokens that most strongly reminded her of the joyful days before her husband succeeded in crafting the Silmarilli, when his ardor shifted fully from her to the works of his hands, and her family was lost to her. And she prayed that one day each would be restored again to her side.
Author's notes: As this is told primarily from the point of view of Nerdanel, I have used the mother-names for her sons rather than their father-names or those they were known by best within Middle Earth.
Osanwë is the Elven skill of telepathic communication.
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