Taking the Sword: 2. Part 2

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2. Part 2

For many days Nelyafinwë continued to observe his brothers' lessons and practice sessions, concentrating intently on the lessons but not actively participating, while later practicing for hours in secret in his room before retiring to sleep. He felt torn - a part of him still remembered that this graceful dance was intended to bring death to another living person, and was revolted, but increasingly this part of himself was engaged in a battle against a growing desire to join his brothers in mastering this lethal craft. Just because I choose to learn this art does not mean that I will ever choose to use my skill to end the life of another, he found himself thinking. The sword is a tool, after all, and nothing more - and it is the will of the craftsman that controls the tool, not the other way around. If I choose not to learn this craft, does that not mean that on some level I do not trust myself to use a sword wisely? Should I not think better of myself than that? When have I ever chosen to willfully harm another person? But though he felt the desire to participate in the lessons growing ever stronger, something still held him back from coming out and requesting permission to join his younger brothers in their sessions. And so he remained on the sidelines, watching and yearning, until the fateful moment that finally ended his fence-sitting arrived.

It was Curufinwë who inadvertently brought about the change. The youngest of them all save for the twins (who had not yet reached their age of majority), his brilliance was already apparent - the quality of his smithywork and gemcraft, while not yet at their father Fëanáro's level, already exceeded that of his older brothers who had been apprenticed for much longer. He had their father's striking looks as well, and his skill with words, and though only just past his majority, Curufinwë had already attracted the attentions of several young ladies; privately, Nelyafinwë was certain that Kanafinwë was not the only one of his brothers who would soon be wed. Curufinwë was also proving to be talented at swordplay as well; thought his technique was somewhat flashy, he regularly defeated the twins, Kanafinwë, and Tyelkormo in their practice bouts, and generally managed to defeat Carnistir as well. There seemed to be nothing he did not excel at, save prudence - for though skilled with words when he chose to be, Curufinwë often spoke without thinking.

On that day, Curufinwë was again sparring with Kanafinwë, who was meeting his younger brother's attacks with stolid determination but no particular enthusiasm. Of all my brothers, Kanafinwë is the least fond of physical pursuits, and it shows, Nelyafinwë had thought to himself while watching the bout. He's just too gentle for this, though his instructor says he's competent; and I suppose his judgement is accurate enough, or Father would not have employed him to teach us. Oh, Kana - you should be dancing with Aurel in your hands, not a steel blade! Nelyafinwë did not need to observe closely to know what the outcome of this day's match would be, and he was watching idly, his mind partially lost in a private reverie, when his younger brother finally, inevitably, slipped past Kanafinwë's guard to land the decisive blow. Nelyafinwë was only half-listening to the subsequent conversation, when his attention was suddenly focused by Curufinwë's taunting words to his dejected older brother - "Perhaps you should try sparring with Maitimo next time - he might be more your level of opponent."

Curufinwë's jibe, so flippantly delivered, delivered a blow to equal his sword's; Kanafinwë looked stunned, and both Tyelkormo and Carnistir stared at their younger brother in amazement. Brother, you grow too arrogant! Nelyafinwe thought angrily. Just because you fancy yourself skilled does not give you the right to be insolent. He remembered the way Curufinwë had condescended to him the last few times he had dared to venture into their father’s forge, and a smoldering heat began to build in his heart. Casually, he walked over to Kanafinwë, and placing his hand on his brother’s shoulder, said, "Don't be upset, filit – our brother has paid you a compliment!" Then he turned towards Curufinwë, who had begun to saunter away towards the courtyard doorway, apparently finished with his practice for the day, and called out, "Little brother, pityanárë – care for a match?"

Surprised, Curufinwë turned to face Nelyafinwë, a look of disbelief written plainly on his face. "Did I hear what I thought I heard? You want to spar with me? You've never even held a sword! Why don't you practice with Makalaurë or Ambarussa; they can show you the basics, and they'll have more patience with your beginner's clumsiness than I will," he concluded dismissively.

"Afraid you'll lose?" Nelyafinwë responded evenly. "I never thought you a coward before, brother."

With those words, Curufinwë flushed, and he angrily stalked back into the courtyard. "Have it your way then, Maitimo. Just remember – you're the one who chose this public humiliation," he replied in a low voice.

"Maitimo, don't –" Kanafinwë began to say, but Nelyafinwë cut him off, smiling. "It's all right, filit," he reassured his anxious brother. "Curufinwë and I are just going to have a nice friendly sparring match. May I borrow your sword?" Silently, Kanafinwë handed his practice weapon to his brother. When Nelyafinwë took the sword into his hand, he was surprised to notice that the odd connection he always experienced between himself and the blade his father had gifted him with was absent – this sword was merely a piece of metal, it did not feel like a part of himself. Father said he'd made my sword for me, Nelyafinwë thought, bemused. Does that mean it's somehow…fitted…to me? Or is it in some way alive – like the Silmarils? For a brief moment, he felt uneasy – he’d grown accustomed to his own blade, and this felt so different. But it was well-balanced weapon, even if not the one he was accustomed to, and after a moment’s hesitation Nelyafinwë walked forward, stopped, and nodded to his angry younger brother. "Whenever you're ready, pityanárë."

The first few passes were disconcerting, and Nelyafinwë was forced into retreat. Nothing in his shadow-sparring had prepared Nelyafinwë for the sheer physicality of swordfighting, the blade vibrating in his hand when it contacted the other's edge, the shudder in his flesh as the force of each blocked blow was transmitted down his arm, the soft cloud of dust kicked up by scuffling feet, the scent of his brother's sweat. But as he began to settle into a rhythm and relax, Nelyafinwë felt a surge of savage joy building in his heart. So this is what it feels like to be truly alive, he thought. Is this what Father feels when he crafts his wonders? When he made the Silmarils? Is this how it feels to have a gift – to have a secret fire blazing inside, to burn without being consumed? Is this what I am made for? He felt his lips pull back from his teeth in a feral grin; suddenly, his limbs felt light, his movements nearly effortless. Almost casually, he continued to block his brother's increasingly determined efforts to penetrate his defenses, watching for him to grow careless, waiting for him to tire. Curufinwë had clearly been surprised when his initial sally had failed to swiftly end the bout with his supposedly inexperienced brother; now it seemed to Nelyafinwë that his little brother was beginning to grow desperate. His movements, formerly smooth, were becoming more ragged, and at one point his eyes met Nelyafinwë's, and he blanched and quickly looked away. Do you regret your boasting now, pityanárë? Nelyafinwë thought in satisfaction as he began to press his attack more insistently. You may think yourself a master of other crafts, but it is I who will be the undisputed master of this one – not you. For once, it will not be you!

Suddenly, Nelyafinwë saw the opening he'd been waiting for. Reacting almost too quickly for thought, he brought the blunted edge of his blade down hard on his brother's wrist, causing him to cry out in pain and drop his sword; then, before Curufinwë had recovered, Nelyafinwë had the edge of his blade pressed firmly into the side of Curufinwë's neck. Curufinwë stood frozen in shock, seemingly unable to believe what had happened to him. "I believe you owe our brother Kanafinwë an apology, pityanárë," Nelyafinwë said coldly; but as he saw the shock beginning to fade from his younger brother's face, to be replaced by a mixture of pain and embarrassment, Nelyafinwë felt his own anger begin to fade. Dropping his sword, he walked over to his brother's side and placed his arm around Curufinwë's shoulders. "Come on, little brother," Nelyafinwë said. "We're even now. Let’s go join the others – it's nearly time for dinner." And with that, he began to walk with Curufinwë, his arm still draped reassuringly around his younger brother, back to where the others were still standing in stunned amazement.

*******

For the rest of that day, Nelyafinwë found himself dwelling on his confrontation with Curufinwë. He'd obviously upset his brother, for Curufinwë had been unusually quiet during dinner, and afterwards had retreated to the privacy of his room. Nelyafinwë soon followed his brother's example; although his other brothers were eager to learn how he'd managed to gain his skill in the absence of formal lessons, he found himself strangely reluctant to speak about his secret practice sessions and his unsettling talent, and, pleading fatigue, soon slipped away to his own sleeping quarters. Once he was in the privacy of his own room, he quickly found himself remembering the sensations that had surged through his mind and body during his confrontation with his brother. He remembered the joy he'd felt as he had repelled Curufinwë’s increasingly frantic sallies, the cold pleasure he experienced when he'd pressed the dull edge of his blade into the vulnerable flesh of his brother's neck. Sickened, he recalled the flash of elation that had run through him when he'd struck his brother's wrist and heard his cry of pain. If I had been wielding the sword Father gave me, and not that practice blade, that blow would have severed my brother's hand, Nelyafinwë realized in horror. But I did not even consider that for a heartbeat before I struck. He remembered Curufinwë's sudden pallor when their eyes had briefly locked, his brother's unwillingness to meet Nelyafinwë's gaze. Or was it inability? Nelyafinwë wondered. What terrible thing did he see, when he looked into my eyes?

His gaze fell on the sword Fëanáro had gifted to him, still lying where he'd so carefully placed it the day before. The Treelight shone on the blade, mingled silver and gold shimmering and flashing across the bright steel; for an instant, the beauty of it caught at Nelyafinwë's heart, and he felt a deep longing rising up inside him, the desire to once more take it up in his hand and become one with it, flesh and metal fused into a living weapon. He began to reach out, but before he touched the hilt, he forced his hand into a fist and turned away, remembering his brother's pain. I do not care if this terrible skill is my gift! It is not the gift I desired. I have always longed to be a creator, like Father and Makalaurë and Curufinwë, not a destroyer! "No," he whispered as he gazed at the beautiful, lethal blade, "I will not wield you again."

"Not even if I asked you to?" a voice behind him said quietly; startled, Nelyafinwë turned to see Curufinwë standing in the doorway. "May I come in?" his brother asked. When Nelyafinwë nodded, he stepped inside and closed the door behind him. "I came to apologize, Maitimo," Curufinwë said.

"You don’t need to –" Nelyafinwë began to say, but his brother gestured impatiently, silencing him.

"Yes, I do. I should never have said those things to you, or to Makalaurë. You're my brothers; and brothers are supposed to love each other, not hurt each other. I know I've always been proud; but today my pride made me cruel, and you were right to strip it from me." Curufinwë paused and looked down for a moment, seemingly ashamed, then continued, "I've always loved you, Maitimo, but I don't think I ever really respected you – not until today. And I am sorry for that."

"If the only way I can gain your respect is by hurting you, little brother, than I don't want to have it," Nelyafinwë replied. "I was proud myself when I defeated you today – and what cause did I have for my pride? What kind of person is proud of his ability to inflict pain on another? Proud of his ability to kill? I will not become a murderer, Curufinwë!"

"Not a murderer, Maitimo – a protector. That’s your true gift, brother, not killing. When you fought me today, you acted on behalf of our brother Kanafinwë, and the only thing slain was my bravado. I'm afraid, though, that soon the skill you revealed today will be needed to safeguard all of us. Maitimo, I've had disturbing dreams of late. Something bad will happen soon, I can feel it. I don't know what it will be, I'm no seer. Father feels it too, I think, and that's why he gave us these swords – so we can protect each other in the dark times to come." Curufinwë walked over to his brother's side, and placing his hand on his older brother's shoulder, said, "Wield your sword, brother – for all our sakes."

Nelyafinwë looked again at the gift he'd received from his father; Telperion was waxing, and in its light the long blade burned with a cold, bright fire. It shines like a Silmaril; a Silmaril of steel, Nelyafinwë marveled. The terrible yearning once more burned inside his heart, and his reluctance melted away in the heat of it; he felt his arm begin to stretch forward towards his father's gift. I am yours in the end, he said in his mind, speaking both to the sword and to his fearsome talent. Use me well. And reaching out, he surrendered to his heart and at last took up the sword.

 

Notes:

Filit – "small bird"; a childhood nickname Maedhros gave to his brother Maglor

Pityanárë – "small flame"; used by Maedhros in reference to Curufin's mental and physical resemblance to their father Fëanor

The meanings of everyone's Quenya names are as follows (most of these are taken from "The Shibboleth of Fëanor" in The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, volume 12)):

Maitimo - "Well-shaped One"; Maedhros's mother-name, given to him because "he was of beautiful bodily form."

Nelyafinwë - "Third Finwë (in succession)"; Maedhros's father-name, given to him since he is the first of Finwë's grandchildren.

Kanafinwë – "Commanding or Strong-voiced Finwë"; Maglor's father-name

Makalaurë - "Forging Gold" (referring to light or the color, not the metal); Maglor's mother-name. The name is prophetic, referring to his ability as a musician.

Tyelkormo - "Hasty Riser"; Celegorm's mother-name, possibly given in reference to his quick temper and his habit of leaping up when suddenly angered.

Carnistir - "Red-Face"; Caranthir's mother name, given because he had the ruddy complexion of his mother Nerdanel (and possibly freckles?), although he lacked her reddish hair - his was dark brown.

Curufinwë – "Skilled Finwë"; Curufin's father-name. He shares this name with his father Fëanor, who gave his own father-name to his favorite son.

Ambarussa – "Top-russet"; the mother-name of both Amrod and Amras, who both had reddish hair; the twin sons or Fëanor shared this same mother-name.

Angaráto - "Iron Eminent-One"; Angrod's mother-name

Aikanáro - "Fell Fire"; Aegnor's mother-name

Nolofinwë - "Wise/Knowledgeable Finwë"; Fingolfin's father-name

Arafinwë - "Noble Finwë"; Finarfin's father-name

Thanks to Artanis for suggesting the name of Maglor's betrothed; the name Aurel means "Morning Star".


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Ithilwen

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Time of the Trees

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/14/03

Original Post: 07/20/02

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