2. Ivresse, Part II
The months passed, and Curufin applied himself to the task of solidifying their influence over Nargothrond. It was an easy matter; most of the people recognised the two brothers' superiority over Orodreth, the new and inexperienced King being truly no match for them, and apart from some old-fashioned nobles who stayed true to their Lord -then why hadn't they just gone away with him? he sometimes wondered with annoyance- the City swayed under their words.
But months passed, and no tidings came of either the King or the Barahirion, but of the hordes of Morgoth, that once again were unleashed on Beleriand. The lack of news from Finrod had begun to worry Curufin, and he seized the occasion to persuade Celegorm to ride forth, under pretext of waging war on the Orcs.
The long stay as guests in the City wasn't doing them good, and it would please him anyway to really hunt a few Orcs or fell a few wolves again.
Celebrimbor did not follow.
It did not matter.
However, Huan -a hound of Valinor Celegorm had brought home one day cradled in his arms as a small pup, beaming and talking so fast about something of Oromë and hunting and a present his brothers had to wait until he ran out of breath to really understand what he was saying-, once loosed into the woods, one day came back bearing a prey that did not exactly refer to the standards of what the two brothers had in mind for a prey that time.
At first the young maid's eyes were wide with fear, or maybe was it curiosity. She was clad in a cloak of darkness, and her hair was black as night, so that the slight flush on her cheeks stood out even more against the paleness of her skin.
But when she shed her cloak, and appeared to them in the fullness of her beauty, Curufin found the words of greetings he was prepared to utter suddenly stuck in his throat; he was momentarily struck dumb, and could only stare, while his brains worked feverishly to pull himself out of this situation; though all he managed to do was keep a presentable composure.
It was not her beauty that struck him so. Rather her expression, or the light that emanated from her, which somehow reminded him of another, but he could not quite place whom.
His mind raced, faster, he felt, then it had ever done, and he called Celegorm aside to present him with the answer they had to give.
One night, as the two brothers kept watch, sitting leaning against each other's backs, -it was Celegorm's turn, but Curufin could not sleep-, he found his brother staring at the girl's sleeping face, as if deep in thoughts. Then the blonde elf leant towards him and whispered in a half-amused, half-sad voice, that Curufin did not know his brother could take.
"Just like the old times, hey? If she stays silent, and you don't look too hard..."
Curufin frowned, and did not answer. It was different. With Aredhel, it had been the mad rides through the unknown forests so fast, so fast that one barely saw the landscape merge into patches of green and brown and blue, it had been the wild hunts when no mercy prevailed, it had been the fights, the struggling, the hardships of strange lands in which one had to survive, alone in the hostile nature, with Aredhel, it had been all that, and more, because if you tried to be gallant towards her, all you earned was a severe smack on the head, and a provocation to a duel.
For one, Aredhel would never have allowed herself to fall asleep so confidently in the presence of two strangers, alone in the woods, even in the old days of peace.
It was a leisure ride back to Nargothrond, and the brothers often strayed from their path to hunt some game, all the while addressing the young woman their best assurances that haste was made and everything that could be done, done. Back in the City, however, it was of his own intent that Celegorm cut the girl's hair, one night in her sleep, and locked her up in the spacious, beautiful room, while keeping the key for himself. Curufin, knowing his brother's thirst for power, did not object; but he often asked the key from him.
After a while, the girl got used to his presence in the room. At the beginning she had wept a lot, and tried to gain his compassion -or pity? Could it be she had wanted him to give her freedom out of pity?-, but after a while she grew cold again, and took to merely ignoring him, not minding him anymore than she would a piece of furniture. It suited him. He sat for hours there in a corner of the room, silent and unmoving, only watching her as she sat, stood or walked, studying her movements, counting every steps she took, recording in his mind her hands taking up a pile of books, settling them down some other place, shuffling in a drawer to find a piece of parchment, picking up a quill, dipping its tip into an inkwell, and the movements of her wrist and fingers as the quill danced on the parchment, then jumped back to the inkwell as it dried...
He had given up on her face, since, as far as he could tell, it brought to him no recognition of any kind, and could only tell 'I am fair, stare and worship'. It was something else, about the way she moved, the faint aura that surrounded her person, the soundlessness of her deplacements -so great it was that, sometimes, startled out of his reverie, he found that she had changed place in the room, without him hearing or noticing it-. And that something, which he could not quite grasp, roused in him ancient -or recent?- memories, half-forgotten, half-lingering; a person maybe, a feeling, a mere sensation, or a fleeting vision... it gave him headaches, would it be only because it kept him awake at night and pacing around his apartments, and that he had taken to banging his head repetitively against the wall.
It was half his brain desperately trying to pull the memory out from the abyss into which it had sunk, while the other half was fixated onto shoving it back where it came from. It was something laying there, at the very limit of his subconscious, ready to spring into being anytime, but for some reason had decided against it. It was Hell.
Another one there was who stayed at the young woman's feet day and night, and it was Huan, whom Celegorm had at first tried to persuade to leave the girl's side, but he had easily been dissuaded by the hound's bared teeth. Curufin did not mind Huan, and the dog, though keeping a watchful eye on him, did not attack him openly.
The absence of one of the Sons of Fëanor did not go unnoticed in the City, but if the tongues were loosed, no one really thought anything of it, and Orodreth's remaining power amounted to a level very little above zero.
Celegorm, on his side, had written a lengthy letter to Thingol, asking for Lùthien's hand, to put it meekly, or, if one was bent on the strict sense of words, forcing the old king to give his daughter's hand to one of the elves he hated above all others. Curufin had read the letter, and corrected some points in it so that his brother's arrogance would not be too obvious, but was intimately persuaded the Hidden King would never bend to such a stupid request.
Then one bright and beautiful morning Huan the faithful had disappeared from the City, and the maiden with him, along with her cloak of magic.
Celebrimbor did not appear all day, but Curufin idly wondered who could have got the cloak out of the hiding place; a key, after all, needed human hands to be manipulated. Especially if it was the kind of key Celegorm had used to lock the cupboard; a magic key, meaning that one had to be a mastersmith oneself to be able to find its secrets out.
Celegorm flew into a rage, and locked himself in his rooms all day, shouting like a madman at anyone who tried even a timid knock on his door. Curufin, his thoughts still a little bit blurry from trying to understand how the solution of the problem could possibly have escaped him -now in a material sense as well as in an ideal one-, nevertheless had to make a show in public to calm the unrest of the people at those unsettling news. Between those that were weeping for joy at the young princess' escape and those who feared Celegorm's fury and those who at last began to doubt of the two brothers' intentions, he was kept occupied till the brink of darkness, when at last he regained his rooms, nearly stumbling on his own feet, and collapsing in an armchair in which he spent the night in troubled sleep.
During the following weeks, it was as if a thunderstorm waiting to burst had elected demure above in Nargothrond's painted sky, though it remained cloudless. To Curufin's ears, the City sounded exactly like a beehive -they had had those, he remembered, in a vast green park somewhere a long time ago, and he had liked to visit this place, would it be only because the man who kept the insects always granted him a mouthful of the sweet, golden honey that thrilled your tongue in such a wonderful way-, and silence was the most general state its inhabitants were to be found in; it was the kind of silence that was buzzing with uncoordinated whispers and rebellious murmurs that refused to be stilled. It resounded in his ears, all day, all night, refusing him rest -oh, rest...- like a dark premonition that weighed a thousand tons on the people's hearts, making them yet light and hopeful...
There were two elves at the gates. At first, when Curufin heard of the news they brought, he was shocked, and, of course, because he was shocked, he laughed, and sent them to Orodreth. After all, it would do the kid some good, to be kept busy. Then, because Celegorm had fallen into one of his taciturn fits again, sending dark and menacing looks to anyone who dared approach him, Curufin had sat in front of him, and watched his brother's face with an amused expression. It was odd; Celegorm, for sure, who was at least twice stronger in body than Curufin, could have easily strangled him with his bare hands -maybe not easily; after all, Curufin always kept Angcrist bared at his waist-, and often, the dark-haired elf had seen his brother on the very verge of throttling him, with his hands trembling with the effort of containing himself. Yet, the older brother had never even dared raise a finger on him. It was rather curious, and an amusing game, when all else failed; because he was sure Celegorm hated him so much, hated his smiles and the sound of his laughter...
They stayed in a like position for some hours, staring each other in the eye, unmoving, like two statues frozen forever by the smith in their contest. The growing roar of the City came to them, and at last Celegorm broke the contact, striding to the window -with willed exaggeration of the heaviness of his pace, it seemed- and leaning on the wall, silently invited his brother to join him and admire whatever sight the town was offering at that time. Curufin did not move. After all, wasn't the echoes of the people's cry enough, and the evidence that the bees were now released from the hive?
Orodreth on his throne, he found, looked more ridiculous than kingly; just as an ugly girl would look like if she wore too much make-up and a fancy dress in an attempt to appear beautiful, but only seeming awkward because she did not know how to carry herself. Curufin stood, and smiled, and caressed the haft of Angcrist with a nonchalant hand. Orodreth, despite his three or four centuries of age, was a child -somehow he could not part from that impression-, and a clumsy child, too. Stubborn, but absolutely inefficient.
He found himself laughing at the foot of the throne, a true laugh of glee, and he did not know what for. Maybe it was Celegorm, standing next to him, all murderous glares and threatening pose, Celegorm who was seeing his dreams of power shattering in front of his very eyes; maybe it was Orodreth, a baby clad in the raiment of a King, frowning in a way he probably thought was severe and intimidating; maybe it was the silence and solemnity of the scene, with all the City's lords assembled on either side of them, apparently trying to kill them with their eyes; maybe it was the shouts of the people outside who claimed their deaths; maybe it was himself, standing straight in the middle of the turmoil and laughing, softly, laughing at them all, because he could not care less...
However, his attitude seemed to shake something in the determination of the child, and, after a brief furrow of the brow, stood, stretching himself to his full height, and pronounced his sentence in a deliberately slow voice.
Curufin, before leaving, drew for him a long, low bow, and put in that gesture as much insult as he could. The last sight of Orodreth he had was the sight of a very red face.
This time, they truly rode like the wind, two alone, and burst out of the Gates of Felagund as two arrows of fire, pausing only at some distance to sound their horns, but then quickly regaining the wild pace of the race.
Celebrimbor did not follow.
This time, it did matter, but Curufin half-thought that if his son preferred the company of idiots like Orodreth to the bond of his own blood, then he wasn't worth being his son anymore.
And to Hell with Fëanor's lineage.
Their road went eastwards, this time, and they had planned to pass between the borders of Doriath and Taur-nu-fuin. But in their way, suddenly, as they were galloping through the forest just on the edge of the Girdle of Melian, came into view two silhouettes, that Curufin needed not more than a fraction of a second to recognise.
The girl was with the Mortal, and it appeared that they had been dancing in the clearing. A single glance to Celegorm and their plan was clear; he lost sight of his brother as he pushed his horse onto the young woman, apparently purposing to ride her down. But Curufin knew himself to be a cunning horseman, and he had not lost that skill after leaving the Blessed Realm in which he had learnt. Stooping down, he easily lifted her light frame from the ground, and firmly secured her in front of him.
He assumed Celegorm would have taken care of the Firimàr.
It was not so. As he turned around and began saying something to his brother, suddenly someone jumped on him from behind, -someone heavy, as no elf could be- and entwined both arms around his neck, nearly choking the wind out of him. They both, assailant and assailed -though which was which at the moment, 'twas difficult to tell-, fell rolling on the grass, before something hard -and also heavy- abruptly came in contact with the back of his head; followed a short moment during which, dazzled, he could neither think nor see clearly. At the end of that moment, however, he found it difficult to regain his breath again, and, for a short intermittent during which his vision was cleared, he saw the Mortal's face close up on his, and felt a deathly grip of rough fingers on his neck.
Then everything was a blur again, until he found himself being lifted in the air, and finding a painful contact with the ground once more. He leapt to his feet, and immediately reached for his dagger, only to grasp thin air in his fingers. The Mortal, apparently, was speaking, if he could judge by the movements of his lips, but for the moment his hearing was impaired and distorted, and he understood nothing of what he was told.
He stood still then, frozen in wonderment -but at what?- and amaze, almost wanting to laugh again, because he felt as though a new sun had dawned. It was inexplicable. He felt as though he had at last reached the term, the end of his seeking, that from blind his eyes had become all-seeing, from deaf his ears as keen as those of the fox. A wave of euphoria washed over him, and a new, fresh smile crept onto his lips; but it lasted only one second. The next thing he knew, Celegorm had dragged him away from the spot, he had all his capacities to move his legs again, and his mind was racing, racing once more, with precision and clearness almost terrifying to himself, which was the precision with which the best archer could shoot an arrow and hit his target.
He jumped on Celegorm's horse, behind his brother, and whispered in the latter's ear not to ride too fast. The girl and the Mortal had both turned away, and were not paying attention to them. Swiftly, he loosened his bow from his shoulder, and aimed. For a fraction of a second, his aim wavered, and a thousand thoughts rushed through his mind, though, weirdly, in perfect order and co-ordination; and he shot.
The dog leapt, and caught the arrow in his jaws. But Curufin wavered no more, and shot again with a sure hand; this time, there was nothing between the arrow and the target; until suddenly the Mortal sprang -rather awkwardly, since it was not prepared- in front of the woman, and received the arrow in his own breast.
Then Curufin laughed, and urged Celegorm on, though knowing that Huan could possibly do them no harm, if Lùthien had forbidden it.
They stayed in Himring for a while, with Maedhros and Maglor. Most of the time, Curufin spent alone, and took up his studies of lore and language again; and when he heard the seemingly far-away sound of Maglor's singing or playing the harp, he only plunged himself further into his own complex theories, refusing to hear.
If the four brothers were reassembled, together by the fireside in the evening or at mealtimes, it was in silence at the beginning; however, soon Curufin got bored of it, and inevitably started a mostly one-sided conversation. There generally was not much to say, but he had become an expert of talking about nothing over the centuries. Yet, he never succeeded into drawing any other in his talk, and eventually ended by shutting up, with a hurt look on his face.
Often, the two elder brothers exchanged worried looks over their plates, but said nothing in his presence.
One night, when he had tried to sleep, but entirely failed because of the uncommon heat -indeed, sleep not but only seldom escaped his grasp-, he heard a faint rapping at his chamber door, followed by Maedhros' inquiring face appearing in the gap between the door and the wall, which was itself followed by the red-headed elf's entire body. Curufin, at that moment, was sitting on the floor in a corner of the room, with his knees drawn up to his chest and his face turned towards the window, which was thrown widely open. The hot air came in in huge waves, and Maedhros hastily walked over to the window and shut it, then turned to his younger brother, who was now looking at him with reproachful eyes.
"I was looking at the stars."
With a sigh, Fëanor's eldest son looked around the room. The unmade bed was witness to Curufin's trying to sleep, as well as him wearing his night-shirt, and the desk was neatly arranged, with the inkwell at one corner, the quill laying properly beside it; one single book rested on the table, shut, with a bookmark in it, the pile of papers and parchments was very cleanly ordered, so not a single sheet stood out. The handwriting, too, as far as he could see, was straight, regular, flawless, beautiful, in the whole, but the lack of crossing out somehow unsettled him, and he would have given a lot to read what his younger brother wrote on those sheets. He remembered Curufin's room in Valinor, which was always in such a state of mess Nerdanel complained that it was impossible to dust the floor, since it was completely littered with papers carelessly strewn on the ground. There were books randomly laying around, everywhere, at least six of them on the desk, and some around it, that looked as though they had fallen off. Fëanor, one day, had come home with a stack of fifty quills for his son, since those just kept disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Curufin, when not in his tree or at the forge, could usually be found pacing around the mess, talking loudly to himself, surrounded by what he loved most; the smell of old books, the colour of ageing paper... There, the young boy was at home, and, when any of his brothers came to see him, they were always received with a large bright smile, and new ideas that had probably occurred to him while having heavy philosophical discussions with walls or parchment.
Of course, it was always different when he left that environment. Outside, or at the forge, even at the dinner table, Curufin was but a silent, dark youth, lost in his reverie and unappreciative of being disturbed.
This room was bare. Clean, neat, proper, but bare. If not for the ruffled sheets on the bed, one could hardly tell there actually was someone living in it.
It did not resemble Curufin. Patently, the heat had bothered the younger elf, and yet he had left the window wide open. Maedhros could remember a time when Curufin was considered very smart, and had largely deserved this consideration, at least as far as he, his brother, could tell.
Of course, there always was the fact that he took so much after his father that sometimes, after Fëanor's death, Maedhros had looked at his younger brother and fooled himself into thinking his father was still alive.
Stooping down, he sat in front of the dark-haired elf, who was still observing him keenly.
"I do not recognise you, little brother. This is not like you."
Curufin said nothing, but continued staring at him, and, once more, in those eyes, Maedhros saw Fëanor.
"Here." He leant forwards, and took the other elf in his arms. "What's happening to you, pityanàrë?" (1)
For a while, there was no reaction. Then, Curufin relaxed, but Maedhros saw a strange gleam spring into his eyes.
"It had been a long time since you called me pityanàrë." It was a mere, cold, and true statement. Maedhros, not really knowing what to make of it, answered nothing.
"Yes. That was all *before*, wasn't it? Everything's changed, now, isn't it?"
And the gleam in his eyes hardened, and Maedhros thought he was beginning to recognise it, because he had already seen it, once before, in another's face... He whispered.
"You can talk to me, you know. If you have something to say, I'm still your big brother, ain't I?"
Something started in Curufin's throat, and gradually, that something took unto the form of a soft, sad laugh. The smaller elf wrenched himself away from Maedhros' arms, and in the blink of an eye he was standing before him, at some distance, with a beautiful smile on his lips. The same smile, Maedhros thought, he wore every day, and knew he had failed.
"Talk is something I can do, Russandol, but I have nothing to say." Then he laughed again, and showed his brother to the door.
At the beginning, Curufin completely disinterested himself for the upcoming war. Maedhros was buried in his preparations, travelling back and forth all over Beleriand and even as far East as the Dwarven Cities, and came back only once in a while, with a fierce fire in his heart and wild words of hope on his lips. Fingon came, too, with promises of allying greater forces to their hosts. Together, the two cousins were roaming the land, seeking out all the dispersed companies of elves and humans, rising an united army out of dispatched tribes, and a great wave of unjustifiable hope followed them like the wind.
Curufin, at the beginning, remained in Himring, and though he spoke nothing, knew that their projects were doomed.
It was odd. Of course, Celegorm and he had to ride out, too, to seek Caranthir and Amros in the woods, and assemble the folk of Thargelion and the forest, which was a difficult task, since they were a wandering people. Curufin did his part, and though he did not believe, poured belief and faith into the hearts of those he found on his path. Through Maedhros he knew the answer old Thingol had made to their letter, and, on the surge of the moment, or maybe just out of habit and weariness, he swore revenge. One Oath more or less...
Then the day came at last when their host was united, on the plain of Anfauglith, though sundered from that of Fingon, who awaited in the shadow of the Ered Wethrin. Long they were delayed, for Uldor, an Easterling who had pledged faith to Caranthir, assured them there came an assault from Angband, though the keen eyes of Celegorm could see nothing in the clear daylight. Curufin himself did not believe him, but was past the point of caring; and what weight had his voice against five others?
The Nirnaeth nearly had his life, and Amros carried him out of battle, with two arrows stuck in his chest.
It was a pleasant experience, somehow, just feeling he could let go of everything and not being blamed for it. It was like a exquisite dream, lingering half awake, half asleep, just in that state in between when you could lie back, and let your mind wander freely, letting it stumble on its own surprises... When he sat up at last, not really knowing how long he had been unconscious, the first wary thought that assailed him was that he wished he hadn't.
They dwelt now in Ossiriand, scattered, sometimes meeting each other on their wanderings, somewhat conscious that they were the only House of the grandchildren of Finwë yet untouched by the wars of Beleriand, and that the blow could not but land soon, and land heavily.
They lived in relative peace, away from the world, from the wars, though of course the Orc-raids were more and more numerous, and now that they were defeated, pushed into their last refuge, they fought with the courage of despair, careless of all, only intent on destroying, destroying as much of the Darkness as they could; yet fully aware that they were but like wasps stinging the great Hand of Angband.
Curufin fought like the others, and, when he had nothing to do, climbed trees, and jumped from one branch to another, from one tree to another, travelling in the forest as he went hidden by the leaves.
However, one day, as he was laying flat on the main branch of a great oak, spying on a group of Orcs not far away, which he planned to attack as soon as they got closer, to his surprise he saw a horse throwing itself at the group of creatures, and on that horse a tall, blonde elf with a sword that had soon neatly cut all the Orcs that had the foolishness to stay in at least two pieces, and made the others disappear from the battleground as if by some kind of magic.
Celegorm, for it was him, had news for him, he said. The old Thingol had been slain, -at last, his tone seemed to mean-, and Dior Eluchil the Fair, son of Lùthien, now reigned on the remnants of the Kingdom of Doriath. Dior was proud, but his strength severely lessened, for what was Doriath without the Girdle of Melian? And after the attack of Nogrod, the last great warrior of that land, a certain Mablung, had been slain. They were now defenceless, and vulnerable.
And they had a Silmaril.
Everyone had seen it, for Dior now wore the Nauglamir openly. Maedhros had already sent a letter to him, requesting that the Jewel be handed back to them; but six months had passed, and no answer come.
Then he made silence, and, Curufin, who had not spoken since they met, looked into his eyes and knew his heart.
Celegorm, devising doubt in his brother's silence, spoke again, only to remind him that it was not one, but two oaths that now bound them to this deed.
Curufin had no belongings that he did not always carry with himself, so he only had to jump onto the back of his horse and follow Celegorm in seeking their remaining brethen.
It was not the two oaths that bothered him, but somewhere in the back of his mind, a little voice kept repeating, endlessly, Dior, son of Lùthien, son of Beren and Lùthien...
At the debate, when at last all six of them were reunited, Maedhros, Maglor and Celegorm were the ones to speak, and Curufin, when Celegorm turned to him in desperation only said that there was once an Oath, which was also their father's will...
The attack on Doriath -second Kinslaying, of Menegroth, his mind of a loremaster kept telling him- seemed too simple. There was no one to resist them until they came to the very gates of the City, and, on the way, Curufin marvelled at the beauty of the forest, though it was plunged in darkness. It was really a shame, that the first time he'd finally set foot in this forbidden kingdom, it was to destroy it... aye, he would have wished for some time, would it be only to spend it in those trees...
With Celegorm and Caranthir, he left the heart of the battle to seek out those of the people that were hiding in the intricate maze of the underground buildings, corridor after corridor, lit only by wavering torchlight... somehow, a memory sprang into his mind; another darkness, new to him still, beautiful and sacred, and thousands of blazing flames dancing in the night...
There were several scattered groups of elves, families, mostly, defenceless, shrieking women, crying children, only too easy to get rid off. But, after a while, he found that he was alone, and quite lost, the few soldiers he had taken along probably also lost, only somewhere else; but it did not matter.
He kept running. The darkness was beginning to blur in front of his eyes, only becoming more darkness, and the fire of the torches, seemingly out of their own accord, crept off the walls, and wove behind him an exquisite ballet of light; but he did not have the time to stop and admire the view.
The memories were just infiltrating his brain, sneaking out, slyly, unnoticed, and whispered things into his ear... Once again, he felt as if he was on the verge of comprehension, of understanding at last the secret of those murmurs, and the voice filled his mind, and the darkness...
He could not feel that.
He kept running.
He could not stop.
Suddenly, a door was thrown open in great haste right in front of him, and all he could do was barely avoid it hitting his nose. Light streamed out, nearly blinding him, but not enough that he should not see a somewhat hazy, elven-shaped form burst from the other side, yelling something with a sword in its hand, or it could as well have been a sparkling stick...
He did not even have to think, because the mechanism of the brain and the arm was well settled in by now, and the figure slumped down on the ground immediately.
"You have killed Ada." The young boy looked up at him defiantly, trying hopelessly to embrace the grown elf's body with his short, skinny arms, tarnishing them and his face and his white tunic with the blood from his father's wound, and did not budge. Curufin looked into his eyes, enormous, seeming to devour at least half of his face, devoid of fear, yet wide open in blatant accusation, and dark, so dark with the bottomless pits of betrayal...
"Foolish child." He heard himself utter, and his sword went down, until he was running again, this time away from the child's fractured skull and bloody forehead, from his limp little body lying across his father's meaninglessly, because there would be no one to see it after the fire went past...
Was it that to die out of love?
Of love for...
He knew he had never forgiven his father. Maybe he had not even blamed him. If not for Fëanor, he would still be rotting somewhere in a blessed but much too uneventful realm, pacing endlessly back and forth on his sheet of blank paper, jesting with his cousins and brothers only in earnest amusement; he would have known no other prey but the game of the forests, no other craft but that of the forge.
He had not forgiven.
But it had never occurred to him that he had loved.
There were light footsteps far behind him, and shouts distorted by the echoes of the corridors.
Of course. Why would he have craved love in return? Why would he have sat for endless hours on a branch in the tall oak in their garden, seemingly plunged into his reading, but watching his brothers play out of the corner of his eyes? Why would he have spent countless days and nights at the smithery, working on perfection, secretly hoping for would it be only a word of approval, a glance of satisfaction? Why would he had done everything his father did?
Why didn't these thoughts ever cross his mind? Was it because the answer would have inevitably have been 'for I had loved him'?
The footsteps got nearer. It barely occurred to him that he should either run faster, or turn around to fight as he should, but his steps only slowed down, and he continued running blindly down the narrow corridors.
He could not stop. Not now.
If not for Fëanor, the Elves would never have been anything but subjects of the Valar, like them in gladness, like them in knowledge, growing great and fair under their teachings, but they would never have reached wisdom, never the greatness and pride born of their sufferings, never would they have known the beauty of a candle's flickering flame in the darkness...
Had he not loved his father?
Could he not have loved him? Not loved this man, who, despite all his genius, could not speak a word of kindness because he had known none?
The footsteps were right behind him now, at an arrow's length, he deemed.
...then it was a dead end. He stopped short. The footsteps behind him caught up, and the voice was panting from the long run. Oddly, Curufin did not feel breathless at all. He faced the wall. The voice behind him called, now so close.
"Turn around and fight, craven, or would you rather die the death of a coward?" He felt a sword point nudging at his back.
The death of a coward?
He faced the wall.
The death of a coward.
Slowly, he put his sword back to his scabbard. Maybe it was the only kind of death he deserved, for not dying at his father's side, under the stars, but then he had not been granted the fire.
"What kind of a warrior are you?" the voice asked, this time more uncertain.
Maybe it was the only kind of death he deserved, for fleeing the battlefield during the Bragollach, and not dying under the spears of the Enemy...
What was his life anyway?
Or would a Kinslayer not die a Kinslayer, from a sword of his own race?
Maybe it was the only kind of death he deserved, the death of a coward, simply for being one...
If not for Fëanor...
He shut his eyes. How many times had he jerked a bloody blade out if another's body, and seen the look of terror in their eyes, at the instant when they realised that they were dead? But it had always been but a fleeting moment, because a second later, their faces had turned as expressionless as stone, as marble, sometimes with a vague smile lingering on the bloodshot lips. But not often.
He had used to sit down, from times to times, whether in a tree or clearing, interrupting one of his ridings in the forest, or in an armchair by the fire, late in the silence, when sleep eluded his nights; he had used to think about that blankness that was inevitably to be the last mask of the dead; and asked himself what it was that concealed itself behind that blankness, those unfocused eyes.
He had devised answers. Some answers.
It was the absence of spirit, the absolute lack of thoughts and feelings, the ultimate poker-face; it was the void, the nothingness, that-which-one-finds-when-one-finds-naught, because the spirit had been called away to somewhere else. To where the fëar belong, said the wisdom of the Wise Age, before the madness had seized all; to the Houses of the Dead, the Halls of Mandos, where Nàmo reigns. But it was before the Fall, or the Rise, or whatever had happened that night, it was before they had flown from either beatitude, or thraldom, it was before the dream had ended or begun; and a lot had happened after the Flight. Oh, he doubted not that all those elves he had slain, those innocent victims of bloodthirsty kinslayers had long found repose in the Halls and paradise's doors thrown for them wide open; he doubted not that they lived now happy and wantless in a little house in the Blessed Realm and went on with their lives and spoke curses on his name; that he knew well, and accepted. Fëanor's doom had been pronounced, and that of his House, by the Valar, so they were, indeed, condemned to a long long sojourn in the Houses of the Dead, until, in fact, the end of the world came by; and it had been pronounced, too, by themselves, calling the everlasting darkness unto themselves should they fail in their words. He remembered the delight he had found in speaking those words, for perceiving that they marked a turn in his life; and always afterwards had he deemed words to be more powerful than weapons, because poisoned words, if you spoke them sweetly, could find the way to another's heart more surely and easily than the sharpest and most well-wielded of swords.
He had not feared the everlasting darkness, nor the Valar's punishment, provided that he could always shield himself in the silence and lies; he had only held in dread the nothingness that awaited after the loss of the hroä, and his soul and heart being exposed naked to the eyes of Nàmo, with no more words and masks to protect them. He had feared the truth, an eternity of the wretched thing; he had feared the others, their prying eyes, their indiscreet questions; for he knew that at the time there would be no silences, no smiles, no nonchalant laughs, no meaningful glances, he knew that without those skills he had mastered to perfection over the centuries, he was as lost as his brother Maitimo would be without a sword in the midst of a war.
Oh, he knew the Valar. They would be all pity and compassion and kindness for him, they would literally be overflowing with gentleness and would probably offer him pardon, if he would bend to them and beg for their indulgence; and he immediately spat on the mere thought.
His father had been the first to rise against the Valar's laws; the first to lead the elves towards a new, different life, and while there were others to mourn the olden times, he would not forgive. Why do so? There was no blame.
If not for Fëanor, he would never have felt the warm tinge of blood on his hand, on his arm, never have seen the crimson shade of elven blood, felt its unique smell in his nostrils...
Never have laughed at another's fate, wrought by his own hands...
The spot of dark scarlet on his chest gradually spread itself on his black tunic, invisible, but he could feel the sticky moisture on his skin. Eerily, he felt no pain.
Yes Father, I see you loved us: you loved us enough to teach us the meaning of grief, and loss, and mourning, to teach us the meaning of Death...
He laughed, because he wanted to be one of those who died smiling, and also because at that moment, he realised there was no reason to fear at all...
It wasn't that terrible. Being wounded was much worse, because, when you were wounded, a part of you insisted on hoping that the other part would survive...
He sunk to his knees, and the wall suddenly disappeared from his sight, as he spun around, and saw himself lying on the ground, and the disgusted face of the young elf holding the sword. It was a beautiful face, he thought, oddly so, not really elven in shape, but fair nonetheless, wearing a magnificent necklace round his neck.
His own face was turned down, and he could not see the expression it bore. He would have shrugged, but found that he couldn't, for lack of tangible shoulders.
The fire would pass, and there would be nothing left.
* * * * * *
'Father! Father! where are you going?
O do not walk so fast.
Speak, father, speak to your little boy,
Or else I shall be lost.
- William Blake
* * * * * *
1- Pityanàrë: "little flame", nickname of Curufin as a boy, since he resembled his father so much. I, shamelessly, stole this one from Ithilwen. Ithilwen, I beg your forgiveness.
Reviews, anyone? Well, usually I would not beg, but this time I do, because this story, apart from being the longest one I've ever written, almost means a lot to me, because, scaringly enough, a lot of the theories on life and death -not only those, now it seems- there exposed are my own, devised at a time when, if you had told me 'Silmarillion' I would have answered 'beg your pardon?'.
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.