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Akallabeth in August
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But pride was now his master, and at last he left his ship and strode upon the shore, claiming the land for his own, if none should do battle for it. And a host of the Númenóreans encamped in might about Túna, whence all the Eldar had fled.

Small Expectations by Noliel

He supposes he should have expected this.

"You jest."

Nerdanel’s voice is flat, her face frozen in impassivity; yet Mahtan sees the momentary flare in her eyes, akin to the flash of Arien upon burnished steel. It is fury, cold and embittered, and he does not like to see it. There is no place for it on a face such as hers, not even if it would displace for a moment the perpetual weariness there, not though all the care on her brows were wiped away by it. It has passed, however, and he is glad for that.

"I do not."

His voice is equally flat, but his features are entreating, calming. Expected or no, Mahtan is not about to let his daughter fall into folly. The look has little effect on her, and although the first burst of anger has left her eyes, there is resentment in their depths, resentment and contempt, even as he sees her better nature combat and subdue it. She holds his gaze for a time before looking away, some of the tension leaving her shoulders, but Mahtan tries to reassure her regardless.

"You should not judge them, Nerdanel. They know the Second-born as we here do not."

"I say nothing, father." She's speaking in clipped tones that are nonetheless deferential, and turns back to her portrait.

"And all the more does your silence speak." Mahtan's gaze falls upon the little pot that had fallen when Nerdanel's hand slipped and hit it at the shock of hearing of the betrayal of the Númenóreans. A sturdy pot, this one, although it was most certainly saved from its future as countless pieces by the thick cloth spread under the easel. He bends to pick it up but then is intercepted.

"I am glad it says for me what I... should not," Nerdanel shrugs, also kneeling down to pick up the pot before Mahtan has a chance to do so, and smiles a half-smile, humourless and tired, up at him. "Be seated, father. We have time yet. I've some ginger tea brewing." She wipes a hand on her smock, turns to collect a stool from the stack to her right, and Mahtan makes a small noise of dissent.

"Nerdanel, there is no time. The fleet has been sighted at Tol Eressëa. It will be a few days at the most ere it arrives. We have to leave now."

"Now?" His daughter's face is a study of disbelief and denial.

"I cannot possibly pack my belongings and head to Valimar in a matter of hours. A fortnight, at the least. I have projects that need finishing, ingredients to gather."

"A messenger was sent a month ago," Mahtan protests. "He returned saying the house was empty and the workroom locked."

"I was not home." Her face is oddly closed when she says this, but Mahtan knows better than to pry.

"Well, you are now. And we must depart from here before the Númenóreans land. All are leaving. I know you live closer to the shore, Nerdanel, but you could not have missed the departures in the towns. Elves as far from here as Tirion are leaving."

"Fleeing, you mean." He makes no reply at this, and she continues, voice still disbelieving but growing in anger.

"Fleeing from a host of the Followers who--" a short, mirthless laugh, "--make war upon the Valar. The Valar. How could they even permit--" she breaks off and presses her lips into a hard line, holding back words and taps the edge of her easel with a brush instead.

"They will defend their realm, Nerdanel," Mahtan remarks. Shakes his head slowly, stray auburn locks swaying gently. "And the Númenóreans will pay for their transgression more dearly than they can afford, I deem. Aulë would not tell me what the Valar have decided, but it is grave. The birds have ceased their song and the wind has not moved since. There is a heavy stillness lying over both land and sea." He nods at the gently rippling water in the distance.

His daughter is silent, her face tilted into shadow. Arien is setting, and the gold of her light turns the unfinished painting before them into a splash of molten fire, glinting off Nerdanel's nails, the wood of the brush. Mahtan knows what-- who his daughter is thinking of, and does not speak. It is of him, of course. It's always him.

"Let the others depart," she says finally. "I will not flee. And if any scion of Númenór intrudes upon the quiet of my workroom, he will rue it, I promise you."

The light has waned to a mere glow, and the corners of the room are dark. For a moment, all is still. Then Mahtan chuckles suddenly, a quiet, affectionate noise, and sets his bag down in one of the shadowed corners before drawing up a stool beside the easel.

"That he will."

"Father?" Nerdanel's voice is half uncertain, half laced with joy. Mahtan smiles up at her, fond and easy and not at all surprised at the turn his visit has taken. He supposes he did expect it, in a way.

"As you said, we have time yet. Now what say you to that tea?"

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