The King of Flames @katie_tran
Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Author's Notes: I am so sorry for the late update. You see, life happens, but I dragged myself to finish chapter 6. And no, I am not giving up on this story.

WARNING:From here on out, this work of fiction will be rated as mature (18+.)

oOo

(Gondor)

"Lady Andreth?" One of the servants who worked in the Gondorian library knocked on her office door.

The respected Wisewoman looked up from her work of translating The Lost Tales of Númenor's Downfall from Tengwar to Westron for the locals to read.

"Yes? What is it?"

"A…Lady is here to see you," The servant seemed thoroughly impressed and intimidated by the visitor.
"She calls herself by the name of Galadriel but informed me that you would sooner recognize her by the name of Artanis."

Andreth's grip around her feather pen loosened, making it fall to the floor in the process.
Bilbo Baggin's, who was reading beside her, noted her behavior warily.

"I will come with you," His small body hobbled out of a chair that was far too large for him. "I am quite acquainted with the White Lady myself. It should do me good to exchange a few words with her."

The servant led them to a sitting area. There on the chair offered was a familiar woman sipping her tea serenely.
Once near, no mortal or immortal eyes could miss that the lady glowed from within all the way outwards. She was tall and especially fair even amongst Elven kind.
But her most distinctive and outstanding feature was the hair that had both gold and silver in the likeness of the Two Tress intertwined in a cascade down to her calves.

Andreth knew that stunning head of hair for it was like that of her beloved Aegnor and it was on the head of the woman who had told Andreth so many years ago that as a mortal, she and Aegnor were not meant to be.

Bilbo, who greatly respected the Lady of the Golden Woods, bowed deeply.

"It is a pleasure to have you here in our library, Lady Galadriel. How fare does Lothlórien?"

"Lothlórien fares well. Thank you," She smiled at the Ring Finder. "I am happy to be reunited with my husband and daughter once again, Master Bilbo."

Her sharp, blue gaze shifted to Andreth.
Andreth returned the gaze to the other woman coolly before smiling politely and giving a curtsy of her own.

"Welcome to Gondor, Lady Galadriel."

Lady Galadriel. Not Artanis like the two were never once friends.

"Saelind," The taller woman began softly.

"Please call me by the name of Andreth, my lady," Andreth spoke coldly. "Saelind is a name I have long discarded and chose to forget."

She lowered her voice and stared at the atypically dismayed look of Galadriel.

"That way, we know exactly where we stand with each other."

Bilbo was shocked and flabbergasted. How could Andreth be so discourteous in front of this great Queen of Elves? What was the history between them that Lady Galadriel did not seem angry or surprised at all?

Andreth glanced at him from above.

"Master Bilbo," She said. "I am sure you or one of the servants here can assist Lady Galadriel with anything she needs. I am otherwise occupied and cannot entertain the afternoon."

With that, she left for the back door.

"A-Andreth!" Bilbo exclaimed.

"Let her be," Came the deep, lilting voice of the female Elf who smiled sadly.
"I had expected as much coming here, but I had hoped Saelind would soften her heart just a bit by now for the mistakes and sins I made."

oOo

(Dorthonion – Arda Before the Siege of Angband)

She had been naïve then. She was willful, passionate but mostly just stupidly idealistic. She pretended to not notice how distant Aegnor and his family had become as of late.
Andreth was always the one to chase between the two of them. Looking back, it was pathetic.
The worst was that she had held on to hope and so she and Aegnor had agreed to meet up at Lake Aeluin – The same shores that Aegnor claimed to have first fallen in love with her. He had told her then with the stars' reflection on her long, dark hair had been akin to an Elf maiden.

Andreth waited. He had not come. She waited long into the night until morning came. Aegnor still did not come for her.

By noon, she rushed to the Arafinwëan stronghold.
Unlike before where she could come and go as she pleased, Prince Angrod's guards barred the door from her this time.

"But…Why?" Andreth asked them, confused and hurt.

"Lord Aegnor and Angrod have no business with you any longer, my lady," One of them told her brusquely. "Begone."

"Why all of the sudden?" Andreth demanded. "There is something Aegnor is not telling me. I can feel it!"

Just as they were about to argue, from the corner of her eye, she saw the two familiar golden figures of Aegnor and his brother walking away from the entire castle with their backs turned to her.

"Aegnor…?" Andreth blinked and side-stepped the two guards to push their way. "Aegnor!"

She knew how far Elven ears could hear and she knew he heard her desperate cries very clearly. He just chose not to acknowledge her. His and his brother's figures disappeared. Andreth noticed with despair that they both were grimly, fully armed for battle.

A looming figure in front of her pushed her back outside the gates where the two Eldar gatekeepers were.

It was Artanis and she did not look pleased. The two guards bowed deferentially to the youngest Arafinwëan immediately.

"Andreth, it is best if you leave. Leave and never return," Her fierce, blue eyes flashed at her.

"What is going on?" Andreth stammered and felt like the world was turning around her. Were they not friends? The woman had never spoken so coldly and demeaning to her.
"No one is being clear or explaining anything to me. Aegnor…"

Artanis at first looked furious. But her face quickly transformed to that of much sadness.

"So, it is true. Just like elder brother, Findaráto, suspected. Aegnor and you, a mortal, have been going on secret trysts behind our backs."

"It was never meant to be deceiving," Andreth protested. "I love him- "

"Love?" Artanis had always been outspoken and brazen amongst the Arafinwëans and that was made her friendship with Andreth so probable. But now her old friend almost looked scornful.

"There is a war going on right now, Saelind. I have lost enough blood and kin as it is to Melkor's evil. And now, because some lowly, mortal girl thought she could seduce my beloved brother, I am fated to lose him either to a blade or fading once you leave beyond the circles of this world."

Lowly mortal.

The cruel words repeated inside her head repeatedly. They were not friends, her and Artanis. She hated Andreth at this very moment. In fact, her whole family looked to have utterly abandoned her dry.

Oh, but why did she cling?

Up until she had found herself to be a successful and thriving wisewoman up into her old age, Andreth still clung to that one hope and potential with Aegnor during her desperate discussion with Nóm, otherwise known as Finrod.

But she had loved her Fell Fire!

oOo

Whilst Bilbo and their guest were downstairs, Andreth ran up to her private rooms. Going to one of her shelves, she took out a snuff box that contained all the playful and love poems Aegnor and her shared over the years in Arda Before prior to his jilting.

Reading over all twenty-seven of the letters again, she wept bitterly over each one. Steadying herself, Andreth grabbed all of the ancient parchments and threw it into the fire to burn.

oOo

(Enedduin)

It was a difficult question to answer when Elrond asked Khánhwhat she thought of the master. A million thoughts and opinions of Fëanor she could have written down but only one word she could think of to describe him as a whole.

"He is very changeable," Khánh replied with a disbelieving chuckle.

"Yes, the great Fëanor is ever moody and unpredictable," Elrond chuckled.
"He is someone who has been constantly disappointed in life. Very rough and abrasive mannerisms. I hope it does not drive you away, lady Khánh."

Khánh smiled at the temporary housekeeper of Enedduin.

"No, of course not. I am not frightened by rough manners."

"Good," He smiled. "I have grown fond and used to your presence."

Elrond had not touched much on the current state of Fëanor's body and why it was as helpless and useless the way it was. She wondered if it was out of pride for his fellow Noldo and his accomplishments.
Fëanor himself had not summoned Khánh to actually do her job as of yet other than demanding the cast around his lame leg be replaced.

One afternoon, Khánh found some free time to read. They were astronomy books she snuck out of Fëanor's office. On a bench underneath one of the glass windows in the hallway, the seat was warmed by the sun and Laurelin. It looked comfortable to sit and relax on.
Looking out the window after marking her chapter, one of the maids she had seen around came from the house the enigmatic red shawl hung at.
The maid went inside Enedduin, gave Khánh a glance and continued on her way with a disdainful toss of her head.

Khánh's fingers clenched and left dents on the pages of her book.

She had forgotten a goodly number of the Eldar, servants included, looked down on the Edain.

Uneven footsteps and the sounds of hard wood hitting the floor came closer before halting in front of her.
Khánh looked up to see Fëanor staring at the book that came from his rooms.

"Lady Khánh," He lifted his crutch, using it as a pointer. "Come into my office."

Oh, was she in trouble? Maybe she should have asked his permission first before reading his materials.

She quietly followed the mercurial Elf. He tossed away his crutch to the side noisily. His sprained leg was healing rather fast ala Elven abilities, but his movements were still inept.

"Sit," Fëanor spoke – nodding at a seat.

She responded by looking at him dumbly. Fëanor sighed.

"Be seated on that chair right there if you please, my lady," He sat down behind his dark table and leaned back.
"You will have to forgive me. I am used to giving out orders and having people at my beck and call."

Khánh was not a person to be commanded around, but it was his home. She could discuss her boundaries with him later. She went over to the chair and sat.

"My lord, I apologize for reading your books. It was not done of me," Khánh said all in one flow.

"Apologize?" He retorted. "For reading books. They are things that have been collecting dusts and cobwebs for centuries. You are a smart woman as far as the Adaneth go. Who else would read them? Turukáno?"

Fëanor scoffed.

"No. Those books are yours to read."

Khánh decided then that she would start not letting some of his remarks slide past her.

"Thank you, my lord," She stopped for a second. "But I just want to make note that telling me I am smart 'as far as human women go' is an undesired back-handed compliment."

Khánh swallowed and waited for his reaction.
Was he angry and now going to release her from her position on the spot?

"Undesired back-handed compliment how?" He asked curiously.

Khánh took a deep breath and collected her thoughts to speak as coherently as possible.

"You say that I am smart for an Edain woman has the implication that Edain women generally are not smart. That I am 'one of a kind' for my race when it is not true. Mortal women may not have the luxury of gaining years of wisdom and knowledge through an immortal life, but we are by no means stupid. And that is why what you said was not a compliment," She finished.
"It was an insult."

He mulled over her words and nodded.

"When put into that perspective, I can see your stance has merit," Fëanor conceded.

She smiled slowly and he carried on whilst looking at Huan who laid by his side on the soft rug.

"See, I am learning to be polite. Normally, I would not care about the details much less around mortals. Life and death have taught me things I never considered before."

Huh. Perhaps he was not so insufferable after all. She wondered if by the grace of the Valar – they did a number on him.

He ran his long fingers through his satin, black hair in a tiring gesture. Unlike most Elves who kept their hair long way below their waists, Fëanor's was mid-back. It was always tied back away from his face save for one lock that habitually fell over his eye.

"I have had a tedious day. Dealing with my half-brother and then discussing compensation details with that damned Olwë who could not get over past grievances," He sighed. "And now I would like to be entertained."

"Entertained, my lord?"

"Lady Khánh, can't we just get on with it?" He snapped, making her flinch. He narrowed his eyes and retreated in what looked like a bit of regret.

"I have had a trying day. When left alone, I tend to fall back into my dark thoughts. Which I assure you is not pleasant."

Khánh considered him.

"I would love to entertain you, my lord, but I am not sure how," Khánh had to let out a clueless laugh.

Her laughing spurred Fëanor on. He tilted his head.

"A smile from you. That is rare," He remarked. "What caused it I wonder? I need your thoughts, lady."

Her cheeks pinkened.

"Nothing. Well, it is just you do not speak to me as one who is your servant or the help. Not many employers care to ask the opinion of someone like me. You are a great Elf. I am a lowly, human assistant."

"What?" He looked aghast. "You were just telling me to not underestimate Edain women earlier. I pay you a salary, Lady Khánh and I shall have my money's worth!"

She immediately looked at him.

"Ah. So, there is another issue. What? Out with it," He demanded impatiently.

"You – You still have not paid me a coin, my lord," Khánh asserted.

Fëanor squinted and looked both indignant and amused.

"Huh! Avaricious girl! Very well, fetch me my locks. I will open the treasure chests. You want my coins before you entertain me?" He gestured with his hands so animatedly, Khánh chuckled.

"No, my lord. That won't be necessary."

To her surprise, the Elf lord looked to be just as greatly enjoying their natural banter. He grinned at her laughter and her heart sped up at the sight. When he was not scowling or brooding, she understood why many considered him attractive.

Khánh spoke earnestly: "I am not one for false modesty. I am not creative when it comes to conversation. Maybe you should ask me the questions and I will answer, my lord."

He clasped his hands and cleared his throat.

"Err… Let's see. We have already established this, but you have not traveled much have you, Lady Khánh?"

"No, my lord."

"Many people wish to travel…Young or old. They may have a parent's love at home, food on the table, a great woman and they take it for granted," Fëanor smiled. "And they still wish to leave anyway."

Was he speaking about himself? Khánh wanted to ask.

"I have traveled to more places than you will ever know, Lady Khánh. In Valinor during my Elfling years and later in Middle Earth before my," He grimaced. "Well, demise you can say. Let me tell you, Lady. Traveling and getting to know the world that you live in is never overrated."

She nodded at his enthusiasm.

"Yes, sir."

Fëanor smirked.

"When I was a young lad, similar as you are now," He said pointedly. "I was your equal."

"Equal? I am not young by the Secondborn standards at all," She echoed blankly.

"I had a very clear conscience. Sharp of mind," His eyebrows crinkled, and he was no longer seeing her, but something else. "Unpolluted by darkness."

"I took the wrong path…It was not my fault I took the wrong path. It was not."

Flames took over his grey orbs. The story of the Elven man who once had his dearly, beloved Silmarils stolen and his bloody quest to reclaim them played out before her eyes.

"It was not my fault," His gravelly voice lowered to a constraint whisper. "Not entirely."

He stared at her in a daze. And just like that, his face lost the anger and distraught she saw just seconds ago. His mirth returned and he laughed.

"You are a witch, Lady Khánh," She remembered how Fëanor accused her of being one when they first met in the woods.

"You did bewitch my horse," He mused. "And here you are, sitting patiently, judging me. You wish to draw out the secrets of my past."

"I am not going to nor do I wish to pry, sir."

Fëanor chuckled: "I know, Khánh."

She did not anticipate him dropping formalities would make her blush, but it did.

"You are far too polite for that."

And for that, her prior disdain for this man changed to compassion. His next question was abrupt.

"You examine me. Do you think me handsome, Khánh?"

Her response was just as quick.

"No, sir!"

His loud guffaw startled her. It was not one of mockery or offense; he was genuinely entertained by her.

Of course, Khánh was no fool. One had to be blind not to accept Fëanor's looks. His facial features looked like they were sculpted by the Divinities. Every contour, angle and feature in perfect symmetry, only more deeply pronounced. His well-formed body could be seen and traced through the thick, layers of fabrics.
The scars which should have reduced his attractiveness only served to highlight his beauty – That coupled with the ferocity that radiated from his very being was feral and ensnaring. She was but a little, brown mouse next to his fire.
Eru played favorites and 'handsome' was not enough to describe Fëanor.

He was not handsome.

"Good Eru's will," He said. "You are but a dainty, little lotus veiling a secret viper and an even harder tongue. I have been regarded as a good-looking lad all my life. Pray tell, whatever do you mean 'no?'"

"That is – "She quickly spoke. "Handsome or not does not matter to me. Everyone's tastes are different. Regardless, beauty is of no consequence to me of all people."

"Now you are just trying to soothe my wounds and hurts with pretty words. Beauty is of no consequence indeed! What faults do you find with me, woman? I am a creator of all things ideal. It would be a shame if an artisan does not match his craft. Is it my forehead?"

"No, my lord."

"My eyes then?" He leaned closer to blink at her a few times.

She laughed: "No, my lord. Your eyes are like glass marbles. They are one of your finest features."

Decidedly, the Master of Enedduin had too much wine.

"Oh, I know. It is my lame limbs; the fact that I have to utilize a blasted crutch and then there are my scars. I am ugly now," He bemoaned.
"Perfection can never last. Though I do not know why I told you this as you are not beautiful anymore than I am handsome."

"Does it matter?" She shot back. "Should it not be the character inside that determines a person?"

"Tread carefully, Khánh," Fëanor replied – His grey eyes piercing at her.
"Do not look so closely inside of me or you may not find anything at all beautiful."

oOo

The red scarf was there swinging outside the window again when Khánh was out on one of her morning walks after she prepared a tray of herbal ointment for Fëanor.
She had wandered outside of Enedduin to where the main house was.
Elladan and Elrond were speaking lowly and hastily to each other in the midst of pointing at the red cloth.

Khánh hurried over to the both of them.

"What is that? Was that Erien; the laundry maid?"

Elladan pursed his lips and walked away, mumbling something about training with Elrohir. Elrond cleared his throat.
He pulled her to the side.

"Listen, Lady Khánh. There are some things in this place – about the Fëanorians in general that you should not dare ask. You have no business in it and trust me when I say that is a blessing."

He straightened.

"I do not mean to be curt, but it must be said out loud and clear."

oOo

Terms, Names and Vocabulary
-

Galadriel – Artanis

Andreth – Saelind

Finrod – Findaráto, Nóm

Eldar, Firstborns – Elves

Morgoth – Melkor

Fell Fire – Aegnor

Edain, Secondborn – Mortals

Celegorm – Turukáno

Mortal Women – Adaneth

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