The King of Flames @katie_tran
Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Author's Notes: Thank you n.k. for being the only one to review/comment on last chapter and is consistent to boot. You're ever encouraging and keep this fic alive.

oOo

Nerdanel watched Nemiriel, the seamstress of Formenos, and Erien, the laundry maid, exit that room.

Erien, for all her delicate beauty, perpetually had shadows underneath her eyes. Life had left her person long ago after she was given charge of that room; watching over its occupant.
Her expression was one of jaded resignation.

Nemiriel, on the other hand, seemed like she fell into shock and despair every time she entered and came out.

"Well? How is she doing?" Nerdanel asked the two.

"As well as she could be under our constant, daily sedation and surveillance, my lady," Erien answered quietly with her bowed head.

Nerdanel's brows furrowed.

"And has Fëanor finally decided on how to resolve this mess once and for all?"

Nemiriel and Erien exchanged hesitant looks.

"We have tried to approach the Master regarding this issue on many occasions. He remains tight-lipped. Ever since the Secondborn girl arrived, the Master seemed to be even more distracted, my lady," Erien said bitterly.

"Secondborn?" Nerdanel echoed. "Ah, you mean my ex-husband's new personal assistant?"

Nerdanel felt her chest itched in anger and not a little jealousy: "This is getting absurd. How is his body and health doing?"

Nemiriel responded.

"Much better, my lady. By Manwë and Irmo's grace, he can move his body more than half-way to its original strength again."

Sighing with a bit of relief, Nerdanel shuddered. It never felt pleasant to be in this part of the household. Not where that monster resided in the room. Darkness would always lurk there.
She bid the maids goodbye and turned around the corner into the hallway only to bump into a small creature; no. She looked to be the new healer Elrond and Fëanor recently hired.

The mortal girl looked just as shocked to have ran into her.

oOo

At first, Khánh felt pain, specifically on her nose. Then she saw red hair and hazel eyes peering down at her.
The tall, Elven woman had a beautiful line of gold freckles dancing across her face. Her sturdy physique was curvaceous and lovely.
Somehow, Khánh knew this was once Fëanor's wife whom he probably still loved dearly.

"Hello there. You must be Lady Khánh. I am Nerdanel and I reside in this part of the manor," She courteously introduced herself.

Khánh nodded mutely.

"I am Fëanor's former and separated wife. Welcome to Enedduin and Formenos," She took Khánh's hand and gave it a squeeze.

"T-Thank you very much, my lady. I am honored," Khánh gave a shy curtsy. But the Elven lady's voice which took a sharp turn made her flinch.

"I must inquire, Lady Khánh. Were you, perhaps, listening in on our conversation earlier?"

Khánh instantaneously remembered all that she was able to have overheard earlier about the supposed, mysterious room – the room Erien was in charge of. Khánh was able to conclude the red sash came from that room.
She shivered at the eeriness and chill that naturally emanated from that area of the mansion.

And evidently, Fëanor knew something about it.
Elrond took pains to warn her not to ask of whatever she saw.

Khánh nodded, ashamed. Nerdanel sighed and ran her fingers through her thick curls.

"I would appreciate it if you made your presence known or turn away the next time. There are some things that happen in this house you need not know about."

"But I currently live in Enedduin, my lady. I believe I have the right to know if there is a safety concern in these lands," Khánh argued, meekly.

Nerdanel looked conflicted. Before she could reply, they were interrupted.

"Ah, Nerdanel! Forgive my tardiness. I was held up in a luncheon meeting, but we can discuss the topic at hand about now. Will anyone else be joining us?"

oOo

One of the brightest and most handsome Elves she had ever laid eyes on strolled towards the two of them in flowing, white robes. Golden hair crowned his head in loose waves around him. His face was fair and his eyes were a clear blue that spoke of an easy and tolerant nature.

"I have not been to Formenos in forever," His voice was grand but lighter than Fëanor's.
"It looks as morbid as always. Truly my half-brother's tastes!"

"Arafinwë. How good of you to come," Nerdanel dipped down in a gracious curtsy. The two Elves exchanged air-cheek kisses.

"But of course. If Curufinwë never properly solves that specific dilemma, that is how I know it could affect all of us Noldor," He cracked a smile. His knowing eyes trained over to Khánh.

"Why…I have never seen such likeness here in Valinor. Who is this young lady, Nerdanel?"

Khánh blushed and imitated Nerdanel's greeting save for the kisses.

"I am just called Khánh, your majesty. Lord Fëanor's temporary assistant."

Khánh had known about Fëanor and his two half-brothers. According to the tales, Fëanor had not treated either of them well despite their efforts to bond.
Arafinwë must have been one of the brothers.
Andreth once informed her that this grand man was the father of Andreth's long, lost lover, Aegnor.

"An assistant, you say. A mortal one no less!" Finarfin smiled widely and walked over to give Khánh a warm hug, shocking everyone around them.

"Arafinwë!" Nerdanel exclaimed.

"It is my first time properly meeting one of your kind, Lady Khánh," He spoked. "For as long as I have lived, I have never truly learned to keep my excitement tamed. You will have to pardon my lack of manners of your people. In time, perchance you can teach me."

"It is not an issue, your majesty," Khánh blinked, still dazed; not used to such close, physical contact – she stiffened in his arms.
"Our manners are much coarser than that of the Eldar. You are not missing anything."

"Do call me Finarfin or Arafinwë," He told her with a saucy wink. "And whenever you get sick of Fëanor's surliness, feel free to come look for employment in my home."

Khánh winced and chuckled nervously.

"Um, I- " She heard a throat clearing.

All three turned in its direction to see Fëanor with his hands on his hips. He was wearing a worn, dirty shirt with his sleeves rolled up. His hair was in a mussed-up knot at the base of his neck and based on the indication of sweat and weariness on his face, the Elf spent the better part of the day working at his forge.

But on what? Khánh wondered.

Fëanor's eyes narrowed at Finarfin's arms around Khánh and the latter promptly released her.

"Fëanáro! How good to see you, Elder brother. Your wife invited me here so we could finally have an adult discussion about your current circumstances. Also, your association with that beastly woma-"

"Arafinwë," Nerdanel coughed. Her hazel eyes shifted to Khánh inconspicuously.
"Not here."

"Is that why you and Nerdanel are here?" Fëanor scoffed incredulously. "I do not remember ever welcoming you in my domain, let alone on my own personal issues."

"Fëanor, he is just here to help us," The Elven woman approached him, laying a hand on his shoulder.

Khánh watched the three, growing more bewildered and uncomfortable by the ticking. What was this about? That room, whatever it was?

He shrugged Nerdanel off.

"Help?" He laughed contemptuously. "When had little Arafinwë ever truly helped with anything? Should the flower Elfling not stick back to being the spineless fop hiding back by the walls chatting the ladies up as he always did? We do not need him here. He would only prove to be useless."

Finarfin's friendly countenance disappeared. Despite his shorter height than the former, the Golden Elf managed to grab Fëanor's collar. Shoving him back against a wall, Finarfin hissed:

"You go too far as usual, Fëanáro. I lost my children for your sins. They abandoned their begetters because of your persuasion."

"You two, stop this instant," Nerdanel demanded.

"Yes. Your children did. And for that, I am grateful and owe them more than you know. But why is it, I wonder, that your beautiful Findaráto and Artanis chose to follow me out of Valinor instead of staying by your cowardly side?" Fëanor sneered.

Khánh flinched. Why was he being so needlessly cruel?

"And you," Fëanor pushed his sibling away and frowned down at Nerdanel.

"I know what you are trying to do. And I do not fault you for wanting to protect and have relations with our sons. They are yours as well, after all. But the Valar has already agreed and permitted our separation. Our children has no business in my matters regarding you know what. Do not stick your nose in where it does not belong, Nerdanel."

She stared at him; her eyes wounded. Khánh hurt for her despite having only known the woman for an extremely short time. She was beginning to understand the feelings of having affections for the man.

"Curufinwë Fëanáro, this is not over," Her voice hitched and she left the halls.

"Excuse me, I think I am going to be sick," Khánh muttered, feeling a wave of nausea overcome her.

Stumbling around the corner, she ran out of the house as fast as she could. She did not understand, but all she knew right now was that she did not want to be near the Master of Enedduin, whom she was growing so fond of.

It was admittedly, a mindless run with no destination in mind. She eventually found herself in the woods. Finding a large tree, she climbed up the first few branches to rest on and recollect the events that happened today.
Khánh originally found herself going inside that part of the Formenos estate after having heard the same unsettling laughter she had first heard upon coming here.

Only, she did not think it would have pushed her to witness such a mess among family members.

She hid in the trees long enough to have felt something moving and tickling near the side of her head. Feeling her hair stick on ends, her eyes shifted to see a black, furry, eight-legged creature to the side of her head crawling its way across her face.
The large spider's four, beady eyes stared right back at her as it moved.

Khánh shrieked. Trying to jump off the tree, she came to the realization she was stuck. She lodged herself within the branches too well and her dress was caught in a hook.

With a hopeless wail, Khánh was certain she had missed lunch by now, and Elrond was most likely looking for her.

oOo

Finarfin sighed with a shake of his head. His gentle demeanor returned.

"You are charming as always," He said wryly. "Tell me. Do you try really hard to be as pleasant as you are? And now you scared off your poor, little assistant."

Fëanor glared at his half-sibling balefully.

At the sounds of Khánh's familiar voice screaming, the two were shaken out of their tiff.

Disregarding Finarfin's pushes for him to go, Fëanor ran in the direction he saw Khánh scurried to with all the speed he could summon.
His ears twitched at any sounds he could discern from her. Knowing her love for nature, he went inside the forests.

"Khánh?" He called out; his heart was beating in fear. "Are you hurt?"

No response.

Khánh was miserable, tired, scratched up and hungry. To make things worse, the left side of her face was just bitten by an angry spider who ran off to look for its next prey. She could feel a pressure swelling underneath her skin.

Amidst her self-pity, she heard a male voice calling out to her.

Fëanor.

"Khánh, come out this instant," His impatience demanded from a few feet away. "You are no longer a child to be running away whenever you encounter an episode you do not like."

Joy welled up in her and she tried not to tear up. That arrogant rascal!

"Fëanor?" She called. "I am up here. I'm quite stuck and cannot get out of this spot…"

Only a moment later, she found Fëanor surprisingly, expertly climbing up to her side.
Quickly inspecting her thoroughly, he unhooked the hem of her dress from a twig and supported her body – pushing her out and placing her safely on the ground.
Seconds later, he was also on the ground next to her.

"You are good at this," She complimented.

"Years of practice from when Turcafinwë and Moryo would climb trees and get caught in similar situations," He patted the dirt and debris off of her briskly.

"The difference, however, is that they were rambunctious elflings who did not know any better. What is your excuse?"

She flushed and looked away.

"You have some minor scrapes and your face is swollen! Come," He nodded his head in the direction of the castle.
"You are a healer, no? We must get you treated up with a meal, lady."

oOo

Inside Khánh's medical rooms, Fëanor watched her crush some powder into a bowl curiously.

"Why is your face bruised? It gives this squint to your eye that makes you look even more queer looking."

She mixed the powder with glycerin and applied it to her skin in the mirror.
"I was bitten by a terrible creature out there. I believe it was a spider."

To her dismay, her plain face was now downright ugly due to the injury. She glanced at him. Even when dirty, scarred and waned, he was devastatingly handsome.

Curse him.

Fëanor pulled her back to sit on the bed. Taking a damp piece of cloth, he began cleaning up her wounds with a gentleness she could not describe.

"Why did you run?" He asked, softly.

Khánh swallowed and thought carefully before answering.

"There was a lot of disturbance going on and I am an outsider. My heart was racing erratically and I was at a loss of what to do," She looked up at him. "So, the tales were true. You hate your brothers."

It was not a question. Fëanor smiled sardonically, tossing the rag to the side.

"The tales? You have read tales about me, have you?" He mused.

Khánh did not respond. She did not approve of the way he treated his family. It was apparent to her how much they cared and wanted to support him. But who was she to tell him that?

Fëanor settled back on the floors; his arm propped up on his knee as he looked at her. After a long moment of him not uttering a word, she said:

"Arafinwë was a nice man. Very attractive too."

He gave her an indignant look.

"Attractive?" He practically scowled and she inwardly gloated. "He is a disgustingly kind person. I will give him that. Lacking in the testicles apartment as well."

Khánh paid his vulgar insults no heed.

"Your wife is beautiful. She seemed protective and maternal."

"That she is," He agreed. "Most people did not think so, however. Amongst the Noldor, Nerdanel was not the fairest. I even had several of those higher up pawns attempt to discourage me from being with her, so that I would marry one of their pretty daughters instead."

Khánh stared at him, amazed. Fëanor nodded.

"We first met when we were mere children. She was a childhood friend turned sweetheart."

She looked down at her lap and clasped her hands tightly.

"Then what was it about Lady Nerdanel that you were drawn to?"

"During the early days of Valinor, most Elven maidens had little interests outside of waiting for their lords and ladies, needlework, music and pampering themselves. Aside from my two nieces, Irissë and Artanis, no other women had similar interests – hunger for anything outside their comfort area and the craft that I did. Nerdanel was not afraid to get down and dirty. She was supremely talented at her art and sculptures. Naturally, we bonded and I eventually fell in love."

He stood up and rang one of the cooks to bring a tray of food to the room.

"Mahtan is Nerdanel's Atar. You should have seen his face when I asked for her hand in marriage," Fëanor chuckled. "To be fair, I was rather insolent about it. The old man looked like he wanted to skewer me on the spot."

"And what of your brothers?" Khánh changed the topic.

She did not understand herself. Why did it hurt hearing him talk about his wife so tenderly? She was his wife for Eru's sake. Nerdanel had the luck to have once been adored by him, lain with him and given him seven beautiful boys.

Fëanor's prior amusement turned guarded.

"What about them?"

"Why are you so hostile towards them?" She steeled her nerves.

He glowered silently. She thought he would never end up answering.

"I loved my true mother, but she died after having birthed me. I was told that I had so much fire in me, I took all her life energy away the minute I left her womb. Knowing how I turned out, it was a credible enough story," He said flatly. " I despised the fact that my father married another wench and sired children with her. I tried to get on with Arafinwë and Nolofinwë as well as I could until I did not have to when the Silmarils and Melkor came between families. That was all there was to it."

Khánh shook her head.

"That did not sound like anything either of them had control over and continuing to treat them ill is wrong. You know it."

He got close to her face. The aggression radiated from him and she could feel his burning breath on her face.

"Treading on thin ice there, my lady. You are irritatingly particular when it comes to my brothers, Adaneth. I am warning you. I do not like outsiders intruding into my privacy. I told you more than you had any right to know just now."

She knew it was true but being openly called an "outsider" hurt more than she could fathom.
She reminded herself to not have any idealizations of Fëanor. He was once a wrathful man who committed many atrocities based on principles she could never comprehend.

"Understood," Khánh straightened up. "Summon me whenever you require my assistance, my lord."

With tense shoulders, she walked over to the door and opened it. The cook had not arrived yet.

"Where are you going?" He asked after a moment – His voice mostly regaining its normal tone.

"Somewhere. I have no need to tell you. I do not like outsiders intruding into my privacy," She left the room before he could say anything.

Wincing, Khánh figured if she got fired for her impertinence, she would have to start over at Woodcreek School or someplace elsewhere.

It probably was not a wise idea to put the Fëanorians in as reference.

oOo

Names and Translations

Secondborn, Edain – Humans

Adaneth – Mortal Woman

Arafinwë – Finarfin

Curufinwë – Fëanor

Nolofinwë – Fingolfin

Firstborn, Eldar – Elves

Artanis – Galadriel

Findaráto – Finrod

Tyelko, Tyelkormo, Turcafinwë – Celegorm

Moryo, Moryofinwë – Caranthir

Irissë – Aredhel

Artanis – Galadriel

Atar – Father

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