1. Ivresse, Part I
The closest English translation I found for 'Ivresse' (French) was 'Intoxication'. Yet it just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? Don't worry though, nobody actually gets drunk, at least not on wine...
Welcome, readers, to a *very* disturbed character's life...
Disclaimer: All characters and settings mentioned belong to Professor Tolkien; though, I do own the disturbed notions of personality...
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Curufin was considered especially smart among his family, and skilled, which had once been to him a subject of pride and boasting. When their father had shown them the Jewels, he had seen his brothers gape at them, open-mouthed, and yet all he could do, seeing the pleasure Fëanor had in their delight, was to smile appreciatively, and hand them on to the eager twins. When first he had been handed a sword, and told to practise with his brothers in secret, he had obeyed, and dutifully taken it up; soon, unsurprisingly, he had become one of the best fighters among them, second only to Maedhros.
However, he could not begin to feel the intoxication, or whatever it was, the six other boys seemed to derive from swordplay; each morning, he studied their faces while they thrust and parried. He saw that Maedhros was lost, utterly lost to the delight of the play, of the dance, as he called it -though was delight was there in turning a metal stick around? -. He saw Maglor focusing his entire attention unto the face of his adversary, following every slightest change of their expression, trying to guess what their next move would be. He saw Celegorm and Caranthir, shouting, showing off, laughing aloud, -those two never knew how to be serious-, regularly defeating each other, so that no one really could figure which one of them was better than the other. He saw the twins, Amros, Amras, listening most carefully to their teacher's instructions, seeking to make up for their young age.
He had tried. Like Maedhros, he had concentrated on the beauty and fluidity of his moves, though probably Maedhros did not need to concentrate at all. Like Maglor, he had tried to fathom the thoughts of the other, counting on his own rapidity and swiftness. Like Celegorm, he had tried to make it all a game, a mere game, and, like the twins, he had wanted to follow the guidelines to the most exact exactitude.
Still as regularly as before, he had found himself pointing a sword-tip to one of his brothers' neck, or chest; and still, as regularly as before, he left the practise field puzzled, uncomprehending as ever towards the flush and grin on the others' faces.
Since early childhood, he had been found to excel in most the tasks his parents set him to, and had accomplished them diligently, yet never in them he found the joy that one day or another would illuminate his brothers' eyes.
He had been sent to the forge as an apprentice, and it did not take his father long to notice his outstanding talent. Still a youth, he was counted in the City as the second best worker of jewels, and often, when Fëanor was overwhelmed with work, he was the one to take up that which his father did not have time to do.
It had pleased him, in some moments of leisure, to hold a piece of nothing in your hands, a shapeless lump of nothing, and then, slowly, oh so very slowly, to turn it into something, to shape it into being, add all the finest little details, the illusions, and then throw it into the fire again, so as to watch it melt into the nothingness from which it had come.
The study of lore and language was another thing, it only could completely absorb his mind and faculties for an undefined amount of time; but so little spare hours had he from the forge and various tasks he was subjected to, that even the eternity the Valar promised them did not seem enough for him.
Life, he had come to understand, was flat. It was a landscape with no mountains to climb over, no rivers to cross; hardly ever a challenge, hardly ever a want, a need. It was like walking across a blank sheet of paper, and then, when one came to one edge, back again, and so on till at last you fell off a rim.
So, he was exaggerating. There were mountains and rivers from time to time, but Curufin had learnt not to climb, nor to wade, but rather to look for a valley or a bridge. There always was one of those things lying around.
It was like that. He had been second to Maedhros in swordplay; to his father in smithcraft and lore; Maglor was always the best at music; Celegorm at hunting; the only thing he could best absolutely everyone at was keeping on a straight face and shutting up.
And then, he had fallen in love. Or maybe, someone had fallen in love with him. It was all rather unclear. All that remained to him of those few years, those short few years when at last he had thought he maybe had found a goal in his life, was a blur of seemingly nothing sensible, and afterwards, when he had sat down and tried to figure it out, he never succeeded in understanding what exactly had happened to push him into committing such a foolish act. But the next thing he knew, he was married, settled down, with a charming little wife he barely knew hanging unto his arm, and there was a flood of visitors menacing to invade his house under the pretext of bearing him congratulations and well-meaning wishes.
It was only a very short time before his father had suddenly barged in one day and nearly ordered him to pack up his belongings and leave, with explanations promised for later; and as far as he knew, Curufin had always been a dutiful son. However, it had been long enough for him and the little woman that seemed so young, he often thought of her as more of a daughter than a wife, to have something more shared between them then just binding words; and the little toddler than had taken his first steps in the house barely months ago was taken along to the strong fortress his father brought him to; because of course the only grandson of Fëanor could not possibly be left behind. At the moment there were a lot of tears -mostly one-sided-, but when the choice had finally been hers, she decided not to go with him after all.
Life returned to its original flatness. There was a lot of waking up in sleep to soothe the child when nightmares seized him; and that, in his opinion, happened far too often. Maybe it had to do with the place; a stronghold with walls of steel, Curufin could indeed have thought of a better place to spend one's childhood in. But he did know better, however, even at the time, than starting an argument with Fëanor, so, as was in his habits, he shut up, and let nothing transpire. Occasionally, one of his brothers would remark playfully on his wearied face, but there were far more important matters to look to, and they never gained more from him than a vague answer and a smile assuring them that everything was all right, so after a while everyone returned to his own worries, and those seemed to come in loads these days.
The child grew, and gave him less and less trouble, for which he was grateful.
The House of Fëanor scarcely saw much of the outside world, and silence gradually took hold of Formenos, apart from the periodical outburst of Fëanor's building madness. Even Finwë, who lived with them, sat as a recluse in his room, and appeared only for meals. Sometimes, the brothers would receive a visit from their cousins, mostly Fingon and Aredhel; but being somewhat uneasy of inviting them into the fortress, they met them outside the walls, and there was no question asked.
The events precipitated. Night, or so the oldest elves who had seen Cuivienen called the sudden darkness that engulfed the land, fell, and also something more sombre than the mere lack of light. Along with his brothers, or at least some of those, he rode to Tirion in the greatest haste, faster than he had ever pushed his horse, and was there to hear Maglor announce to the assembled people of Tirion the attack on Formenos. Maedhros and the twins had stayed behind a little way, to form a last escort for their King should he at last decide to come, but when mere minutes later they arrived the haggard look on their faces was enough to tell the truth.
The Waning of the Light itself hadn't produced such a reaction among the crowd that was there clothed in gay-coloured garments. Curufin remembered, when he was still a child, having made a small sculpture of fragile glass that he had been dissatisfied with, despite everyone's assurance that it was good, almost perfect, and anyway better than what a youngster was supposed to be able to achieve; but then when he was left alone in his room he had angrily smashed the guilty piece of art on the marble wall. The night was like that. It was still, and it was dark, and you could almost hear through the opacity the silence of a thousand hearts, a thousand lives coming apart, shattering like a mirror someone purposefully dropped.
Fëanor, as if struck by a sudden morbid premonition, had clad himself in black, from head to foot, and wore no other jewel than the simple circlet of silver that designed him as the eldest son of the king.
With the others, Curufin made silence, a shocked, disturbing silence, trying to let the facts sink in -but he found he couldn't-. The first cry of panic arose, and soon it was silence no more, but the greatest confusion Valinor had ever known.
To be surrounded by fear was something new for his experience. It was somewhat satisfying; that feeling of superiority and slight contempt that came with it.
What had followed was to him like the day he had first been allowed to take a sip of the royal table's best and strongest wine. It was discovering for the first time the true beauty and light of the dance of fire in the darkness. It was hearing the full extent of his father's spirit, finely diluted into words; it was seeing the entire people assembled at their feet on the summit of the hill, it was the whole city ablaze with the flame of torches; it was the delight of feeling phrases roll out from his own tongue that had the power to balance life and distort fate; it was the intoxication of winning, of laughing into the very face of doom, awaiting a revelation that could only be imminent now, now running down the path that had been traced for him because he saw a corner at last, something that promised a change, novelty, and he had looked into the gloomy faces of his brothers and did not understand their lack of enthusiasm.
Then there was the sobering down when the journey at last began.
He looked back, and saw that less than a fifth of his father's people had followed them; the rest preferring to swell the hosts of the sons of Indis. He had placed his little child in front of him on the horse, and had to see the small blank face, expressionless, that reminded him so much of his own as a youth that he almost wished Celebrimbor could have taken more after his mother. His mother that did not, by the way, follow her husband and son down the road that should have been hers. The journey to Alqualondë was somewhat boring, since it was a path they had oft taken in the past days, and from time to time there was a family or two that turned away from the road and filled his heart with contempt and disgust at their cowardice.
Sometimes later, he did not know exactly, he found out for the first time what it felt like to run a sword through another elf's body. Again, he looked around, and saw the horror, the disgust, the fear, the tears running down the fighters' faces even as they slaughtered each other, and again, he did not understand. It was not much different than slicing through those models they were given for practise, consisting of cloth stuffed with hay or other kind of dry grass, when you forgot -or tried not to realise- that those elves in front of you were indeed elves; except, of course, that flesh and bones offered somewhat more resistance, in which case it was more akin to cutting the deer and other animal that had been first taken down by a judiciously placed arrow. Of course, a little more messy, however not so much when you compared it to those games the young princes sometimes allowed themselves to play with the prey, large, strong beasts preferred, hunting it down on foot, and killing it barehanded, or with a small, sharp dagger that was to be thrust in the animal's eye.
It was practice, only enhanced a little by the fact that somewhere, he nearly realised that his own life was in danger, too, but not really so.
Then everything ended. The fire still danced in the darkness, but the few women and children that remained were too scared to even think about fighting anymore; and shadows only ran about in the smoke, aimlessly, sometimes throwing themselves into the very heart of the stake. He found himself alone, standing, waiting for the fire to die out. He attempted to wipe the sweat from his face, but only managed to smear it with blood from his sleeve, and noticed that his hair was completely tangled, his skin bearing minor cuts in several places, and his whole personae basically in the greatest mess it had ever been in. He saw some of his brothers, and they were in no better state than him.
The fire calmed down. He began walking towards the shore. He knew that Maedhros had stood still, for a few seconds, than turned away, with the set expression he wore when deeply angered or hurt, probably to have an argument with their father there and now. He knew that Fingon, the only son of Fingolfin that had joined them in the battle, had wavered before eventually running after the taller elf, as always. He knew Maglor had gone behind a scorched bit of wall that still stood straight and been severely sick. He knew that the twins, never far from each other, had also emerged from battle together, back to back, and that, after a few minutes of shock, Amros had loosened his bow from his shoulder, and shot an arrow heavenwards, though the signification in that gesture somehow escaped him.
He arrived on the beach of white, fine sand, and took off his boots first, allowing the icy water to run between his toes. He lowered his shoulders then, and washed the blood and sweat off his fingers, his palms. Laying aside his clothes, he immersed himself entirely, but nearly cried out from surprise as a sudden bolt of pain shot through his body, and noticed for he first time that he had a large bleeding gash on the back of his shoulder. He cursed under his breath. Biting his lower lip and squeezing his eyes shut tightly, he let himself get accustomed to the pain the contact of salty water brought to his wound, and then walked in farther, till only the top of his head emerged from the surface. He washed his hair, combing its matted form with what he had, that was only his fingers. All around him, a definite circle of darker water began to form, and the foam came tinted a sickening shade of pink. He lingered there, for a long time -at least longer than necessary-, confusedly wishing that he could stay... but knowing full well hat his brothers would be looking for him already. After a while, he took onto the task of washing his clothes, but could in no way find the time to let them dry, so it was a dripping wet, but relatively clean Curufin that arrived some minutes later on the ruins of Alqualondë.
The ships made wonderful material for burning, they found out. Maedhros had simply looked at the starting fire in its birth, and walked away in the snow, leaving a trail of footprints after him. Some moments later, when the flames had reached the height of their roaring, Maglor had strode away without a word either, following his eldest brother's trail. Celegorm and Caranthir were nowhere to be found -he had only caught a glimpse of them before they all got on their different vessels-, and neither were the twins. Fëanor stared at the fire, his fire, and though there was no smile on his face, his eyes needed no supplementary mad grin to account for the burning of his spirit, stronger even than the fire of Losgar.
Curufin looked away from the fire, to his father, but quickly looked back at the fire again, running a gentle hand through the hair of the small boy that clung to his waist.
Later, when Fëanor had called his sons to him, the twins were found missing, and only after five minutes of absolute panic had Amros showed up, and told them with a barely controlled voice that indeed his brother had for true name Umbarto, the Fated. At that moment, it had barely sufficed of Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin to hold their father back from running back into the blazing ships.
The Dagor-nuin-Giliath brought a new understanding to him. This time the opponents were Orcs, and Balrogs, creatures of the Enemy, and the elves threw themselves in the battle with laughter in their throats instead of tears in their eyes. At first, the routine settled down once again, as he remembered his practise lessons, the best and surest way to kill while still staying alive yourself; but just out of boredom and curiosity he risked himself to another kind of fighting, improvising as he advanced in battle; and finding that the resistance wasn't being harder at all, he allowed himself to grin like the others, and almost be carried away by the rhythm of the fight. Intoxication. It was no more killing, no more war, not even the boring, boring practise sessions; it was all a game, his game, a play in which there was nothing to loose, since the only thing that was at stake was his own life and that of others. Disgust could wait. Regret could wait. For now there was the game, only the game; and he knew that in this dance -oh, not the dance as Maedhros meant it; not the dance of grace and beauty, but the dance of death, whichever form in took- he would be the leader.
It was all there, within the reach of his hand. What mattered was not the opponent, not the kind of death you handed them, not even the number of those you could bring down; what mattered was shutting out your heart and laughing while inflicting the deadly blows that would keep you alive, and he knew that in that game he was always the best.
The balancing of life and death, with a smile on your face.
Fëanor had ventured too far. When the battle had gradually died down on their side, Celegorm, far-sighted, was the first one to spot their father, with a tiny escort of his best warriors on his side, in front of them, too far in front of them, caught in the middle of an army of Balrogs. At this moment, Curufin had already half-sobered down, still delighting in the lingering feeling that he could not quite place, -that, for a little moment, he had been the master of all those lives he even knew nothing about, playing their fates in his hands-, but, as he saw his brother point out to that spot, where already their father stood alone, he did not think. None of them did, it seemed like. It was the second inconsiderate act he had perpetuated in his life. And the second act that, when later reflecting, he found he could not understand. But, at the time, all he had thought about, with Maedhros nearly running at the forefront while slicing himself a way through the mass of fire-demons, was that he could only follow, momentarily struck dumb. He had never loved his father, and he often observed the little children in Tirion and their 'Daddy' and had tried to fathom what it felt like to have a family that could be called normal. He knew that, if he was indeed his father's favourite son, Fëanor had never even been able to recognise Amros and Amras from each other, while all of their brothers could do so without even thinking about it. He knew that Maedhros and Maglor, the two eldest, sometimes had fond memories to share about a time when Fëanor too was a father, and Nerdanel had loved him, and he her, but to the younger sons it was all a conjecture, a hypothesis, a dream, and whatever bridge their two older brothers tried to build between them and that past Curufin had always refused to tread on. They had collapsed after a while anyway, as no one tended to them.
Fëanor had been slain by his own fire. It was what everyone, everything whispered in the night, in the camp of Mithrim. It was a whisper only, a murmur, for all knew full well that both Maedhros and Curufin were restless, and wandered around the tents buried deep in thoughts; and the last thing they wanted was to be heard by one of them. However, when the wind itself was carrying their rumour and filled the air with it, it was all that Curufin could do to listen. In other circumstances, a quick swipe of the blade would have been enough to quiet the gossip, though that night he refrained himself, even if he stood motionless, brow furrowed, for a long while in front of a flap from behind which the talk was particularly loud.
There was no light to be found except a faint glow in the tent of the six brothers, for if the other four stayed inside, none of them slept; and the dancing fireflies.
He wasn't there when Maedhros' escort was crushed and Fëanor's eldest son taken captive. The only one his brother had brought along was Celegorm, and this one had, apparently, reserved himself and most of the group they had summoned for coming back and telling the news. Maglor had said nothing, only looked his younger brother with the eyes of pain and silent accusation, but Curufin felt that Celegorm knew full well where his fault lay anyway, and had not intended to do otherwise, had he been able to.
The little Celebrimbor grew into a youth, and Curufin regretted that there could be no smithery in a temporary settlement. However, the child began to remind him so much of himself that he sometimes shuddered when merely observing him, though he was pleased... somewhat.
At the moon's first rise, the five remaining brothers moved their camp to the South of the Lake, to avoid meeting with the Houses of the sons of Indis. There, they met with a lot of Grey Elves, Sindar, as they called themselves. Curufin spent long periods of time among them, learning their language, their lore, trying to understand their customs and pick up some notions of the geography of Beleriand, which they were only too eager to tell of. He found the opinion of these Umanyar strongly divided; part of them were in awe in front of the Calaquendi of Valinor, curious like children and as full of questions as five years olds, and a minority who was more reserved, did not trust, and did not know yet where to lie their faith. As a whole, they were interesting subjects, and Curufin learnt from them some useful knowledge to have if one wanted to survive in Endor, but then the events came crashing down once more.
One morning, -for there were mornings now- a rider with a hood and a cloak came at full gallop into the settlement, and there was no one to stop him until he was in front and inside of the main tent. This rider turned out to be Maedhros, with one hand less but plenty of things to tell the others could not begin to believe in, and eventually Caranthir could only rage helplessly when presented with the bare facts. Maglor was only too happy to have his brother back to care, and Curufin, as usual, shut up; surprisingly, Amros also did so.
The North-Eastern parts of Beleriand, they found, were little better than bare patches of savage land, with mountains in the North and a river Eastwards. The six brothers set themselves to work, and soon there was a strong fortress on the hill of Himring the Ever-Cold. Riders patrolled the plain of Lothlann, Aglon and the Gap were fortified, and Caranthir took Helevorn, while Amros had departed for a more southern land, where the trees that grew were tall and dark, but the woods full of game.
Curufin ended up with Celegorm, holding the Pass of Aglon between Himring and Dorthonion, and the plain of Himlad. His brother had never been particularly smart, he knew, or at least no match for him, and it proved that in politics, Celegorm was no better than he was in lore. Curufin found that the blonde elf much preferred riding out in the southern forests or flirting around with the young maidens of their lands to matters of the state. Curufin, being wed, and not sharing his brother's taste for flirtatious behaviour, found himself faced with a sigh with the load of paperwork that was sure to await each day. The complicated relations between the various kingdoms, and delicate diplomacy interested him, though, would it be only much more than the dull economy
After the Aglareb, the years of the siege were peaceful enough. He didn't go to the Mereth Atherdad, but sent Celebrimbor, who was now a young lad of about sixty, and went in tow with Maedhros and Maglor. Two of his cousins, Turgon and Finrod, born the same year and always best friends, suddenly disappeared, and Aredhel with them. Little as he cared for the two princes, the girl had been a great friend of his during the days of the Trees, and when a dark elf suddenly showed up on his land claiming that he was the White Lady's husband, it was all that he could do not to slice him in two. After all, one never knew. Maedhros was often absent, visiting Fingon in Mithrim, and of Caranthir he had very little news, of Amros practically none.
He taught Celebrimbor in lore and skills of the hands, and though the child excelled in those, he generally stayed taciturn and silent, talking little, instead drowning himself into books or taking lonely strolls in the woods. After a while, Curufin decided not to watch, and not to remember.
However, in his travels, he had met with a new kind of species; no Elves, no Men, and no creatures of Darkness -though he had wondered about that at the beginning-, but Dwarves: ungraceful, foul looking short little creatures that spoke in rusted voices and wore helmets wherever they went, even to the Market. -He has asked himself whether they slept with them, too- Their race seemed to consist only of males: but later he was told that, for the children of Dùrin, beards were not a trait solely particular to men. Their language, though, was most intriguing, for they divulged it to no one; and if it was devoid of beauty and scorched his elven ears, he understood that their Runes had been devised by an elf -He would have liked to meet that elf one day, though unfortunately he was the lore-master of Thingol, and the Sindarin King still refused the entrance of his land to any prince of Noldorin save for the sons of Finarfin- Puzzled, and as always, ready to answer a challenge, he had taken up the study of dwarven culture, until his work was rather rudely, he thought, interrupted by a new attack launched by the Enemy.
The Bragollach fell on them all like a vulture on its prey. Even if the mountains of Dorthonion stopped the initial flow of lava from the fire-mountains, in Aglon you could see the tall flames rising from the North, and the smoke swirling skywards, darkening the heavens. Celegorm, even if he did not have the sharpest of wits, was still a redoubtable warrior, but for all the fierce resistance the two brothers put up, Aglon was forced, and Himlad ravaged. Curufin found himself submerged by the flood of Orcs and demons; and this time he fought for his life. Or maybe not. When did his life start to matter to him? Maybe it was just pride, that pushed him to fight to the bitter end, and made him swallow his tears as he was finally compelled to turn his back to the battle-field and flee westwards. One thing he knew was that the last time he remembered having cried, he was four years old, and had fallen off his pony.
His father had died in the fight, because he had pressed on too eagerly to the enemy's rearguard, but now the only death he himself could hope to die was the death of a coward, shot in the back by an arrow from afar.
Celebrimbor rode at his side, but neither of them spoke.
At the gates of Nargothrond he found his cousin Finrod just returned from battle himself, and, patently, also defeated, and in his eyes was doubt. He noticed that the ring of Finarfin, which Finrod had always worn, was now gone from his finger, but did not ask any indiscreet questions. Patience and keen hearing were always rewarded, he had found. A while later, Celegorm also showed up, as it appeared that he had taken the other, longer way around Doriath.
Finrod, though still retaining his politeness and light manners, which Curufin remembered from the few times they had met in the Blessed Realms, now seemed to be strangely weary, and his spirit tarnished. The golden prince allowed them the stay in his halls, a little too coldly to make them feel truly welcome, had later remarked Celegorm. Curufin, on his side, could not care less, and found himself often wandering on the lands, marvelling at the beauty of the underground City, the river, and the surrounding forest.
At the beginning, the people were wary of him, and more often than not he found with amusement the streets to be strangely peaceful on his way; but he had had some millenias of acting behind him after all. The first time a little child had inadvertently run into his legs, pursuing a red ball that had rolled to the other end of the street, he merely helped the girl up on his feet with a smile, and politely started a conversation with the older brother who was confusing himself with apologies, quite effectively dismissing the look of distrust and dread from the young boy's face. The next day, the City was crowded again, and he discovered with a sort of growing awe that if Nargothrond without its people was a work of art, with them it came alive, like a great heart that beat in the ribcage of all its dwellers.
Orodreth, the King's nephew, was but a few decades younger than Celebrimbor, and Curufin noted with satisfaction that the two youngsters were seeking each other's friendship... in rather awkward ways, of course, but anything if it could help the people forsake their defiance.
He himself began to much enjoy the uneasy and tense relationship he maintained with Finrod and the Lords of his court. It was the act all over again, the game, like the one he had played with the City, that he now played in the Palace, only on a higher level. He delighted in the perpetual exchanges of almost genuine smiles, easy jests and ambiguous jokes, poisoned or wise council, depending on whom he wished to destroy or found to his liking, when to laugh, when to smile and when to stay silent, refined manners and the most precise yet near-unnoticeable of body-language, flowing conversations hiding however much he wanted them to dissimulate, completely or partially; as he returned to his own element.
The game of truth and lies.
He knew somewhere that he should have found it disturbing. His father had never genuinely lied, only told what he had indeed thought was the truth, and had been too far gone, at the time, to realise that it was not. But instead, Curufin discovered that this game he enjoyed ever more greatly than that one of death, for wasn't the thing at stake life no more, but pride? At this game, he could be lost, to the taste of danger and his own daring; and often, when his interlocutor finally left the room, either shaken, deep in thoughts, but invariably trying to conceal their mind, he would find himself laughing softly to the silence, while he took careful, measured steps towards the aim he had assigned himself, with his tongue and wits as only but surest weapon.
Politics were an art, as well as a science, after all.
Then one day the Mortal appeared at the Gates, claiming kinship with the House of Bëor. For a long time, Finrod and he shut themselves up in the King's room, and talked behind locked doors. When Finrod walked down the stairs again, supporting the slightly dazzled Man in a manner that might just have passed as a gesture of friendship to anyone else, it was only to confirm the rumours that had been flying wildly around: this was Beren Barahirion of the House of Bëor, rightful Lord of Dorthonion, Foe of Morgoth with a price on his head as high as that on Fingon's; and that all should show him honour and respect, and see that he was treated well. Of the Ring he spoke nothing, nor of the purpose of the Mortal's coming, though when he walked back to his apartments, Curufin thought that the usual spring in his step was just a tad bit diminished... somewhat.
Later, Finrod summoned his Lords to Council, and Celegorm and Curufin, as considered cousins of the King and generally trusted to be wise in counsel. In fifteen minutes, the matter was clear, the King's plans exposed, his question asked, seemingly to the assembled Lords, but his eyes directed for a second unto his two cousins made it clear that their answer was the one he expected. The brothers shared a glance, and Curufin felt a wry smile curl his lips, but they stayed silent. For the moment, he thought. Celegorm would not have forgotten.
The doors opened, and as Finrod spoke in front of the people in the great square, all huddled together as if to shield themselves from an unknown danger, and seek comfort in the certainty of the others' presence, Celegorm and Curufin merged into the crowd, far from each other, and he waited for his brother's reaction that was to come first.
He did not wait long.
Finrod, as always, had made facts clear and precise, not bothering with additional and useless babbling. Celegorm's words, fierce and fell, as proud as those of Fëanor that night so long ago, yet so close, began to shatter the faith of those who had as yet no dread in their hearts. Curufin almost felt himself shudder with delight, sensing a new challenge, idly wondering if his brother had not gone too far in the certainty of his authority. When Celegorm's last argument was issued, and silence weighted as lead even as the wind swept past the crowd, Finrod remained temporarily speechless.
Curufin inhaled deeply, and did his best.
The intoxication seized him once more, as he spoke, and made his way through the crowd to stand at the King's side. He had often conversed with the people of Nargothrond, and feigned to take interest in their daily lives; and he knew their fear. He knew that, him not being their King, they had felt they could allow themselves to talk to him, and had eventually come to trust him enough to let him in their houses; and though they were mostly a people of stoneworkers, he had in their midst the additional prestige of being a Lord-gemcrafter, a Mastersmith, and the confidence from artisans to artisan was always flowing more freely. Of course Finrod himself was a genius stonecutter, but in this debate he had the disadvantage of being the people's lord and justice, representative of the established government; and Curufin knew the hearts of the Noldor too well not to be able to sway them at will.
Yes, Nargothrond was now his adopted home, as well as theirs. No, the King's plan was absolutely unthinkable, it would be an act of complete folly, only to be committed by those to whom hope was denied, and hope did subsist indeed. Yes, his concern was solely of the good of the City, and the well-being of its people. No, he did not think it was wise to launch a new attack on Morgoth, so soon after the well-remembered disaster of the Bragollach, and assumed that anyone with a common sense could understand his point of view. Yes, it would be first step towards another war, maybe even more disastrous than the Sudden Flame; which he had seen, and took part in, and which had diminished the forces of the elven Realms to about *half* of what they were. Yes, the attack would be directed against Nargothrond; no, a victory in that case would be about as impossible as the success of the Mortal's mission, if not more; was it that they wished? Was it the once more the fall of their City, a home to them as it was to him, was it the death of their sons, fathers, brothers? Was it the sacking of their homes, all that which was theirs burnt or taken away as a prize, their wives and daughters captured as slaves to the Enemy's dark schemes? Silence and ruins? Was it war again, so soon? Had they forgotten? If the wisdom of their Lord fails them, would they not rise against the foolishness of his decisions? They were the people, the flesh and blood, the life of the City, would they not defend her against patent lack of wisdom? Would they not stay for the land they loved, the work of their own hands and time, rather than run down a path that was sure to lead to darkness? Would they not stay, and continue that work, their creation, that for which they had striven all along? Or would they rather throw it to the dogs?
Later, he could never quite recall fully what he had said at that moment, but when he finally posed, gasping for breath, the world somewhat hazy around the edges to his eyes, he saw in the silent crowd his brother, who smiled to him encouragingly, and he knew he had done well.
What do you say, people of Nargothrond?
The crowd started whispering.
He looked across to his cousin Finrod -whose expressionless mask of ice would at the moment have stricken fear in the stony hearts of Orcs- and found all the gates to his thoughts irrevocably shut; but all the same, in the very hardness of his eyes, he saw his own victory, and allowed himself to compose his face again into his usual, wry smile.
Later, that night, Celegorm stood at a balcony, gazing at the sleeping City, while Curufin sat nonchalantly on the balustrade, with his back to a wall, a totally uninteresting book in his hands.
"Nargothrond is indeed fair." said Celegorm. Curufin observed him out of the corner of his eyes, and saw his expression.
"You desire her?"
The lack of spoken answer rang in the night air as a confession. Curufin laughed, finding that he had guessed right.
"Then she is yours. We can take care of that, if it is not done already."
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.