2007 Birthday Drabbles
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Oshun's 2007 Birthday Challenge: 5. The Gong - Darth Fingon
The gong was three links in diameter and made from hammered silver. It had been a gift from Feanáro to his wife, years ago, around the time Maitimo had grown old enough to wander and play outside by himself. Two reverberating bangs on the gong was soon understood to mean, "Come home right now or you'll go hungry." Any child foolish enough to test this warning quickly learned that dinner did not wait for dawdlers.
Dinner on that day was boiled sausage with carrots and leftover bread, prepared grudgingly by a cook whose arguments with Fëanáro were becoming more and more frequent. The cook had set the dinner platter down in the middle of the table and retreated back to his kitchen without a word, leaving Nerdanel to dish out five servings. Fëanáro offered neither to help with the food nor relieve her of the squirming baby tucked under one arm. He sat at the head of the table, picking at a stubborn bit of dirt under his fingernail and listening for the older boys to come inside.
The boys were, in this order: Maitimo, age forty-six, who spent most of his time outdoors; Macalaurë, age thirty-two, who had no personality to speak of and simply did whatever Maitimo was doing; and Tyelcormo, age twenty, who had discovered that the best way to get attention was to be as loud as possible as often as possible. The baby, Carnistir, was not yet a year old, but had already displayed a talent for throwing things and fussing whenever his mother carried him around for too long.
The three old enough to feed themselves filed through the door and sat, as they always did, in order of age down the left side of the table. Maitimo was closest to Fëanáro. Their mother sat across from them, where she patiently tried to coax Carnistir to open his mouth for a spoonful of mashed carrot. She had positioned herself so that her back was turned to her husband, making it impossible for her to see that he was trying to pass her an empty water jug. When she resiliently did not notice, even when he poked her in the shoulder with the spout, Fëanáro passed the jug to Maitimo instead and instructed the boy to fill it from the barrel in the kitchen. Then, with an unkind grumble about the lazy cook, he pushed one plate to Nerdanel, kept one for himself, and passed the other three down the left side of the table.
Three pairs of hands eagerly reached for their dinners. Distracted as he was by thoughts of something else to do with hammering and filing, Fëanáro found nothing odd about this until Maitimo returned from the kitchen with the water jug and said, "Where's my dinner?"
"Right here; I just gave it to you," Fëanáro replied.
"No you didn't. Look, I don't even have a plate!"
Nerdanel, immediately on the defensive, glanced up from the baby long enough to say, "I dished out five. There were five plates, and I filled them all."
At a loss, Fëanáro stared at his own plate, stared at the table, and stared at his sons. Tyelcormo and Macalaurë had started giggling behind their hands, laughing at some shared joke that Maitimo too would surely have found amusing, had he not just been slighted a dinner. Fëanáro's eyes darted from one younger son to the other, and in the course of this, fell upon something unexpected. Between them, a small head was resting its chin on the table. Maitimo's missing dinner plate sat within sniffing distance of a small nose.
"Ah," said Fëanáro. He leaned forward and spoke directly to the new head. "And what are you?"
"We found him!" Tyelcormo said, or rather, yelled. "We found him behind some trees!"
"A behind-tree child," said Fëanáro. "I see. And where do you belong?"
The head, which was attached to a small boy in a pink smock, said, "Here, sir."
"Why might you belong here?"
"Because I came to see you, sir."
"Me? Why should you come to see me?"
The boy's eyes widened. "Because my father said I shouldn't, sir."
Nerdanel laughed at this, smirking at Fëanáro and saying, "I can't imagine why."
"Well that narrows it down," Fëanáro said flatly. "Which fathers in this city would tell their small charges not to bother the greatest of Finwë's sons? All of them? If they are wise?"
"My father is wise, sir," said the boy. "That's his name. Though I think that he is not very clever even if he is wise, because he told me not to come here after he told me where here was. So I could find you easily on my own even if he did say, 'Do not go to your uncle Fëanáro's house unless I take you there.'"
Fëanáro's smile dropped. "What is your name?" he asked.
"Findekáno son of Nolofinwë, you mean."
Macalaurë and Tyelcormo had stopped laughing. They shrunk down in their seats, looking at their dinners rather than their father's cold face, and listened to the stony silence. "We found him," Tyelcormo muttered, in a tone that meant, "We should get to keep him."
Fëanáro spoke again only after a stifling pause. "I'm afraid you must go home, Findekáno son of Nolofinwë. Despite your efforts, you do not belong here."
"He's ours," Tyelcormo defiantly insisted.
"Please, sir," said Findekáno. "I don't want to stay forever. Just for today. Please let me stay for today. I'll be good."
With a long breath, Fëanáro leaned back in his chair, tucking his hands behind him. "You may stay," he said slowly, "if you can tell me how many fingers I am holding up behind my back."
Immediately, Findekáno answered, "None, sir."
"None? How can you be so certain if you've not even thought about it?"
"Because, sir," Findekáno said, "you're holding your knife in one hand and your spoon in the other. But not only that, I know you don't want me to stay. And if you don't want me to stay, you want me to give you a wrong answer, and the best way to get a wrong answer is to ask a trick question. You want me to guess that you are holding up three or six or seven fingers, when really you are holding up none just to trick me."
Fëanáro stared at the boy. Slowly, he pulled his hands out from behind his back. As Findekáno had said, the hands held Fëanáro's knife and spoon, and all fingers were snugly wrapped around each. "How old are you?" Fëanáro asked.
"Then you may stay."
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