1. Here Once Was Light
defended Lúthien with his breast
Deep sank the dart in flesh to rest…
…Yet later of that dastard shaft
was tale and rumour in the North,
and Men remembered at the Marching Forth
and Morgoth's will its hatred helped"
(The Lays of Beleriand, 'The Lay of Leithian' p 316-317)
"Well, I shall long tell the tale of how we were made fools by a maid and a man," Celegorm said sarcastically.
Curufin glared at his brother. "Need I remind you that your hound undid us?"
"No, it was that you were so easily bested by a mortal," the other elf rejoined. He pushed a mug of willow bark tea on his younger brother. "Here," he said roughly, hiding his concern.
'My companion you have been, in all deeds evil and good,' the older elf thought, shaking the image of his brother's glazed stare under the hands of Beren. Curufin watched him, his expression unreadable. 'What lies behind the fire in your eyes, brother? I fear to look too closely, for the madness I may see must be reflected in my own eyes. Are you - are we - become thralls to the Silmarilli, abandoned by the passions we once held dear?'
"Celegorm, take your brother a while so that your mother can rest," Fëanor ordered, placing the warm bundle in his son's arms with a gentleness Celegorm scarcely believed his father knew.
"Why cannot Maedhros or Maglor take him?" he whined, annoyed to have his day with Oromë spoilt.
"Because you are here and they are not, and it is past time that you should help in the care of your siblings."
The young elf did not dare to argue again, for he recognized the waning patience in his father's voice.
Resigned, he sat down with the baby. Curufin smelled of milk and his mother. Celegorm had only seen his new brother in her arms; not until now had he been permitted to hold the baby himself. Soft black down covered the tiny elf's head, and his grey eyes looked about in curiosity - so unlike Caranthir, red-faced and bad-tempered even in infancy. Having determined that this strange-smelling elf was no threat, Curufin squirmed, waving his arms until he found his brother's thatch-colored braids. Fëanor had honored his fifth son with his own father-name; this was the son for whom he had waited, the one whose hands would share his passion and talent. Already, Fëanor told them proudly, the little one had a strong grip. That, indeed, was true, Celegorm thought ruefully, wincing as he unwrapped the tiny fingers from his hair. Hastily, he pushed his hair out of reach.
"This may distract him." Maedhros had come up silently behind him, holding a mobile Fëanor had crafted. Celegorm held the toy above his little brother, whose eyes fastened on the bright jewels, suspended from deceptively delicate chains of silver - delicate, but strong enough to have outlasted four boys. A braid slowly tumbled from Celegorm's shoulder to dangle before the baby.
"Ai!" Looking down at the small thing who held his hair captive, he was certain that Curufin was laughing at him.
Celegorm drew the first watch and paced in the darkness, shunning the fire. After their encounter with Beren and Lúthien, they had crossed Dimbar to the edge of Nan Dungortheb. He would have rather made the crossing of that foul land in a single day, but now bereft of a horse, it was unlikely. Still, the spiders were less active in the winter, under light cold and bright in the leafless forest. Not for the first time he wished they had gone south to Caranthir and Amrod at Amon Ereb.
Maedhros would hardly welcome them when he heard of their doings. "We may spin a pretty story if we tell him ourselves, rather than let our cousin's talebearers come to him. And I am not of a mind to live in the trees with the Moriquendi," Curufin had argued against going south to Amon Ereb. "A warm bed and fine food and drink such as we may find at Himring are more to my taste."
A rustle in the underbrush demanded his attention and he turned, expecting Huan, but it was only a fox. He knelt and spoke to the fox as Oromë had taught him in days long ago, but the fox remained wary, and would not come to him. A pang of loss stirred in his heart; though still angry with Huan, he missed the dog, his comfort on these lonely watches in the empty night.
Ithil fled, Tilion ever in pursuit of Arien; the night was half over. Celegorm returned to the fire and envied Curufin's untroubled sleep, bereft though he was of son and people. Evil deeds had they wrought by their hands; more evil still would they do, Celegorm sensed. 'And you dare to sleep as though with the innocence of a child," he thought, standing over Curufin in the flickering firelight. "Brother, we are truly lost," he whispered.
The elf-child was lost. He had eluded Maedhros, hoping to find Celegorm in the forest, but in his hurry, he forgot the way by which he had come.
Too often did his older siblings leave him behind when they rode out to hunt or visit their cousins. "When you are not so young," they promised. Only Celegorm seemed to think him other than a nuisance, but today he would not take him along, and Curufin wandered restlessly, pondering revenge.
"Curufin, what mischief is in your heart?" Nerdanel asked, knowing the look on her son's face too well.
"Celegorm would not let me go with him."
"Ah, little one, 'twas not his choice but instructions of Oromë. Seek out Ambarussa; (2) they were left behind also."
"They are babies," he said scornfully, though that was only partly true. The twins had their own secret habits, and rarely welcomed him in their private games.
Nerdanel turned to her eldest, pleading.
Maedhros sighed and called to his little brother. "Come, little one, we shall go for a walk."
And now he was lost. Or perhaps not so, for he heard familiar voices ahead. On stealthy feet, he crept forward and found himself looking into a hollow. Oromë sat cross-legged, a lioness (3) resting her chin on his knee. Celegorm spoke in a low voice to her cubs, and Curufin could hear their purrs as they rubbed their silky heads against his hands. He watched the family in silence until the hackles on the back of his neck alerted him to another member of the lion family, one suspicious of the little elf who had wandered into his territory. Curufin froze in fear.
Meanwhile, muttering every curse he knew, Maedhros tracked his little brother. The youngster's woodcraft was yet undeveloped and his tracks easy to follow. Maedhros was not quick enough, however, to keep him out of harm. When he at last came upon the little elf, he was horrified.
Seeing his older brother's alarm, Curufin let out a wail of fear, the nervous lion pounced and the Vala moved as the wind, calling the lion off. White-faced, Maedhros held the sobbing child, too shaken to scold his brother.
Celegorm came up behind Oromë, and Curufin dried his tears, useful enough in eliciting Maedhros' sympathy. He did not want Celegorm to think him a coward. He had a superficial scratch left by the lion's claws, and Celegorm examined the damage gravely.
"Were you not to be watching him?" he asked of Maedhros, pleased that this once, his faultless older brother would be the one lectured.
In the dark Curufin listened to his brother's even breathing. Maedhros had ever been the dutiful son, but after the burning of the ships and Amras' death, (4) he had followed his own conscience. Yes, Maedhros still possessed such a thing, and it tore at him, not only for his own sins at Alqualondë, but for his brothers' crimes as well. He would have harsh words for them when they reached Himring, Curufin guessed.
The night air chilled him; coldest it always was before Anor returned to light the dawn. He rubbed his hands over the fire, the light reddish on his pale skin. 'How appropriate,' he thought sardonically. In the haze that filled his mind as Beren throttled him, the judgment he could not avoid had called to him. Long would he spend in Mandos' halls; his hands were awash in blood - of his own brother, of the Teleri at Alqualondë and the Noldor forced to cross the Helcaraxë, of his cousin and, with any hope, that presumptuous mortal. The Oath was his conscience; his heart, a shriveled token of the life he had once lived.
"Perhaps you might stay a moment to consider this Oath and quest of fools, for they shall bring you to ruin, vernonya." (5)
Curufin did not look up from his preparations. Throughout Formenos, there was haste. Fëanor feared that his less determined brothers and their people would lose heart if they did not go forth immediately. "What is there to consider? An oath may not be broken, and none should regret what cannot be undone."
"Then you seal your fate. But you do not seal mine. I will remain with your mother."
Now he paused. Lovely she was, though her eyes filled with sorrow. "Do you forget your own oath? Do you forget that our fates are bound as surely as our fëar?" (6)
"I never promised myself to this fate you have chosen." She kissed him then, and he tasted her salty tears. "Do not do this, Curufin. I cannot go with you and I cannot bear to have you go from me."
"Then you must choose between the two, for I will not desert my father." He turned from her, not wishing Martasinel (7) to see his anguish.
"Small choice do you give me," she replied bitterly. "I will not follow your father, and if I must then be parted from you, then so shall it be."
His temper flared, burning away the pain he felt. "Then let me ease your choice, and loose you from this bond you no longer desire." With rough hands, he stole the gold ring from her finger.
"Curufin! That is not your right, nor mine. Haughty have you and your father become if you believe yourselves above the laws of the Valar."
"And you? You desert your husband? Do not pretend to a righteousness you do not possess," he retorted.
Martasinel lost her temper. "Nothing in my bond requires me to repudiate the Valar, nor follow you into a reckless and certain death. I am not your vassal, Curufin."
"Indeed, for as such you would remain loyal to me. Our son, at least, is of another mind." He smiled coldly; that their son had agreed to leave Aman was yet unknown to her. Celebrimbor, too, had been reluctant, but in the end, he proved unable to withstand his father's sharp words of reproach.
Her lips formed a white line. "You will not take my son; he swore no Oath, he is under no obligation."
"Nay, but bound nonetheless by loyalty to his kin you scarce understand," Celegorm said, entering the room. Brother and sister exchanged hard looks, hearkening to long years of jealousy and hate. "I gather your loyal wife will creep back to Tirion, forsaking her great love," he sneered.
"Love is something you will never know, Celegorm. For all your fairness of face, no wife shall warm your bed and no son shall come of your seed," Martasinel cursed her brother, looking back no more.
"Ah, a feisty one she may be, but faithless. Grieve not for her, brother."
Curufin looked at him. "I do not."
They were doomed then, Celegorm realized. It was still dark, for they hoped to start early and take advantage of the light as much as they could in Nan Dungortheb. His brother sipped another tea in silence; it seemed they were both assailed by reflections. 'Reflections, for those damned as you and me, lead us nowhere good,' he thought.
"Let us make haste while the spiders sleep," Celegorm suggested, standing. The pale light in the east was growing, and Anor's passage would be swift on this winter day. They broke camp and shared again Celegorm's steed, who tossed his head in annoyance at the extra rider. Faelchall had carried his master to war in full mail, and two slender elves with only light possessions were hardly a great burden to the horse. The temperamental horse, however, could not resist snorting with displeasure, as if to remind both elves that he paid the price for their folly.
Nay, Martasinel's curse upon him would hold, Celegorm saw. His heart, too, had shriveled. Lust, and lust only had called him to Lúthien. Never again would a maid come between the brothers, for one remained bound to a wife forgotten, the other bound only to an Oath of violence and possession.
Though their passions diverged widely, Celegorm drawn to Oromë, Curufin to Aulë, rarely did one come upon one brother in the absence of the other. Now, though, something had come between them. Or someone - an elf-maid of shimmering black hair, and seething jealousy soon festered in the hearts of Curufin's betrothed and Celegorm.
Curufin regarded this quarrel over his affections with amusement, sometimes deliberately pitting the two against one another. For this Maedhros scolded him severely. "Would you not feel the same if Celegorm intended to bind himself to another?"
The younger elf shrugged. He knew that he did not need his brother as Celegorm needed him.
His heart moved by the elf's loneliness, Oromë at this time gave Huan to Celegorm. The first bloom of love passed, and the brothers' bond proved stronger in the end than that between husband and wife.
'Now we are both bereft of what we have loved, brother, save each other,' Celegorm thought, his senses alert for movement in the forest, its many eyes watching the travelers balefully.
"Your mood is black," Curufin observed.
"And yours is not? Tell me, what have we to bring cheer? Our lands are lost to the enemy we swore to defeat, and yet fear to challenge. That mortal fool still walks, I would guess, or that wench is not the daughter of a Maia. Our people have deserted us, even your son." He felt the hands gripping his waist clench tighter. "Ah, at last I find what may still reach your heart. Or is it only loss of a possession you regret?"
Curufin shrugged. "He was lost to me when he cozened to our fair cousin. Too long did he listen to Finrod speak against us. (8) He grew prideful, and forgot that he, too, has blood on his hands."
'He was lost at Alqualondë, brother, though you did not see it,' Celegorm thought.
Spying the smoke rising from the forge, Celegorm climbed the hill, Huan trotting at his side. "Curufin! Make yourself presentable to a lady, for we have a visitor."
He peeked inside the building, and in the air, wavering with heat, it was at first impossible to distinguish the features of the elf who worked within.
"Seek elsewhere, for my father is not here," Celebrimbor told him without looking up from his work. "He makes nothing in these days."
Celegorm stayed, however, reminded of better times, when he had watched his father, and later his brother, at work. Celebrimbor's eyes glittered now as Curufin's did then. As they had during the bloodbath at Alqualondë. 'As did mine,' Celegorm acknowledged. But Celebrimbor's eyes had not glittered. He was not tied to the cursed Silmarilli as they were; he bore instead a look of shock, even as he cut down innocents with his own hands.
'No, brother, you lost him then, as I lost Huan in the woods of Brethil,' Celegorm thought. Curufin traded creation for destruction as Celegorm traded the trust of innocent creatures for betrayal of his own kind. And now some 500 years had passed and they were no nearer to reclaiming the jewels. Nay, Morgoth had the victory in these days, for they had lost far more than they had gained. Most damning of all, he and his brother could hardly rouse any regret, save one - that they yet failed in the fulfillment of their Oath.
Unnumbered tears, Mandos had promised them. Not one tear had either brother shed - not of love, not of grief, not even of self-pity.
When, Celegorm wondered, would the tears begin, and would they ever cease once started?
- (1) Here Once Was Light
- The title comes from Fëanor's speech on Túna (ref. The Silmarillion p 89, pub. Ballantine/Del Rey)
- (2) Ambarussa
- Mother-name of both Amrod and Amras (Q) (ref. The Peoples of Middle-Earth, 'The Shibboleth of Fëanor')
- (3) lioness
- Yes, there were lions in Tolkien's world, or at least one would assume that he envisioned them, as there are Quenya and Sindarin words for 'lion' in The Long Road, 'Etymologies'.
- (4) Amras' death
- In The Peoples of Middle-Earth, 'The Shibboleth of Fëanor', the story of Amras, the youngest twin, emerges - he remained asleep on the ships at Losgar. In this tale, Curufin is the son who helps his father to burn the ships, killing Amras.
- (5) vernonya
- my husband (Q)
- (6) fëar
- souls (Q)
- (7) Martasinel
- Curufin's wife is unnamed by Tolkien, but in The Peoples of Middle-Earth, 'Of Dwarves and Men', we are told that she did not follow him into exile.
- (8) Too long did he listen to Finrod speak against us.
- Finrod would do no such thing, having accepted the brothers as guests in his home, but Curufin would certainly suspect him of doing so.
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.